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Cardinals' closer not named to provisional WBC roster

All Headlines 16:06 October 06, 2016

By Yoo Jee-ho

SEOUL, Oct. 6 (Yonhap) -- The St. Louis Cardinals' closer Oh Seung-hwan was conspicuous by his absence on the provisional World Baseball Classic (WBC) roster for South Korea on Thursday.

The Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) announced its 50-man provisional roster for the 2017 WBC. It included five major league players, but Oh wasn't among them.

Oh, the KBO's all-time saves leader with 277, enjoyed a successful first big league season with the Cards in 2016. He began the year as a setup man, but replaced Trevor Rosenthal, an ineffective former All-Star, as the closer in July. Oh ended the year with 19 saves and a 1.92 ERA in 76 appearances, while striking out 103 in 79 2/3 innings.

Oh, however, would have been a controversial national team pick because of his off-field issues. He was fined by a South Korean court on illegal overseas gambling charges earlier this year, and the KBO slapped him with a 72-game ban, which is to take effect if he rejoins the domestic league.

There's little doubt he's the best Korean relief pitcher available. But the national team manager Kim In-sik faced strong backlash last month when he hinted that he was willing to look past Oh's gambling history to put him in his bullpen.

"If you think strictly in baseball terms, Oh Seung-hwan is someone we absolutely need," Kim said. "We've had to deal with some incidents in baseball this year (gambling and match-fixing scandals) and it's something we have to think long and hard about."

Under the WBC rules, players not already on the provisional roster may still be named to the final roster.

The five major league players are: Texas Rangers' outfielder Choo Shin-soo, Baltimore Orioles' outfielder Kim Hyun-soo, Pittsburgh Pirates' infielder Kang Jung-ho, Seattle Mariners' infielder Lee Dae-ho and Minnesota Twins' designated hitter Park Byung-ho.

Ryu Hyun-jin, a left-handed pitcher for the Los Angeles Dodgers, was not considered because of his recent elbow operation. Choi Ji-man, a utility man for the Los Angeles Angels who bounced between the majors and the minors this year, was also not picked.

Choo had four stints on the disabled list this year with calf, hamstring and arm injuries. Park underwent season-ending hand surgery in August and recently returned home to begin his offseason rehab.

Rhee Dae-eun, a right-hander for the Chiba Lotte Marines, was the only player from Japan's Nippon Professional Baseball to be named.

Gocheok Sky Dome in Seoul will host the first round action next March. South Korea will face the Netherlands, Chinese Taipei and Israel in Pool B.

jeeho@yna.co.kr
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