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Ahead of potential posting, nat'l team infielder hoping to stay focused on playing

All Headlines 17:48 November 05, 2015

By Yoo Jee-ho

SEOUL, Nov. 5 (Yonhap) -- South Korean national team infielder Hwang Jae-gyun could see his fortunes change this offseason. The power-hitting third baseman for the Lotte Giants in the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) has asked his club to post him this winter, and if all goes well, he could find himself playing in Major League Baseball (MLB) next season.

He has drawn interests from big league scouts, and a handful of them were on hand Wednesday when South Korea hosted Cuba in an exhibition game at Gocheok Sky Dome in Seoul.

The two countries are back at it Thursday -- preparing for the inaugural Premier 12 starting this weekend -- and scouts' watchful eyes will be on Hwang and other South Korean players hoping to make the big league jump.

Before the second game against Cuba, Hwang insisted he won't be too caught up in the off-field hoopla.

"I just have to do the best I can," he said. "If it doesn't work out, then it doesn't work out. It's not like I can force the issue and make it happen."

Hwang, who set career-highs with 26 home runs and 97 RBIs this year, is caught in a dicey situation with the Giants. His teammate, an All-Star outfielder Son Ah-seop, has also asked the club to post him. And since the KBO rules prevent teams from posting more than one player at a time, the Giants have decided to make Son available first.

KBO teams may also ship one player to an overseas club per offseason. It means if Son signs a big league contract via posting, Hwang won't be able to test the market this year. Only if Son fails to reach a major league deal will Hwang be able to be even posted.

Yet none of that appeared to bother Hwang, who started Wednesday's game and went 1-for-2 with a walk at the plate.

His Giants failed to make the KBO postseason, and the regular season ended on Oct. 4 for Hwang. He said he was still trying to find his form and would like to get as many reps as he could before the tournament starts on Sunday.

An injury situation on the national team may just place extra burden on Hwang. With shortstop Kim Sang-su dealing with an ankle problem, backup third baseman Hur Kyoung-min will likely have to share shortstop duties with Kim Jae-ho, leaving Hwang as the primary defender at the hot corner.

When it comes to his playing time, Hwang said the team takes priority over everything else.

"It doesn't matter how much or little I play, as long as the team comes first," he added.

jeeho@yna.co.kr
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