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INCHEON, Nov. 6 (Yonhap) -- The South Korean national baseball team left for Japan Friday to begin an inaugural baseball tournament over the weekend.
The 28-man squad departed for Sapporo, where it will take on Japan in the opening match of the Premier 12 on Sunday at 7 p.m.
The tournament, organized by the World Baseball and Softball Confederation (WBSC), brings together the top 12 ranked nations. They have been divided into two groups of six.
South Korea is in Group B with Japan, the United States, the Dominican Republic, Venezuela and Mexico.
Group A teams are Chinese Taipei, Cuba, the Netherlands, Canada, Puerto Rico and Italy.
After Sunday's game, South Korea will move to Chinese Taipei to play its remaining group matches.
South Korea will face the Dominican Republic on Nov. 11, Venezuela on Nov. 12, Mexico on Nov. 14 and the U.S. on Nov. 15.
The quarterfinals will be played on Nov. 16, also in Chinese Taipei. The semifinals and the finals are scheduled for Nov. 20-21 at Tokyo Dome.
South Korean manager Kim In-sik stressed the importance of the first game.
"Japan is the strongest championship contender in our group," he told reporters at Incheon International Airport. "Our primary goal is to make it out of the opening round. With so many good teams in our group, we'll have to win at least three games to reach the quarterfinals."
South Korea split two exhibition games against Cuba at Gocheok Sky Dome in Seoul on Wednesday and Thursday, its only two live games before the start of the tournament.
In the second game, South Korean starter Woo Kyu-min took a grounder off the back of his right hand in the first inning and had to leave the game after only 13 pitches.
He was diagnosed with a bruise to the area between his ring finger and pinkie, with no structural damage, and the right-hander said he should be good to go for the tournament.
"As long as it's not fractured or torn, I don't even consider it an injury," he said. "My hand is still a bit swollen, and it's a bit painful. But I can still fully use it, and it should be fine."
Woo is expected to be one of South Korea's four starters at the tournament, and his sidearm delivery could come in handy against hitters who aren't used to the arm angle.
While Woo was confident he could pitch, manager Kim sounded a bit more cautious, saying the pitcher will have to undergo more treatment once the team arrives in Sapporo.
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