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Two S. Korean major league outfielders doubtful for WBC

All Headlines 13:57 January 04, 2017

By Yoo Jee-ho

SEOUL, Jan. 4 (Yonhap) -- The national baseball team manager said Wednesday the country's two major league outfielders are doubtful for this year's World Baseball Classic (WBC) due to their clubs' reluctance to make them available.

Choo Shin-soo of the Texas Rangers and Kim Hyun-soo of the Baltimore Orioles are on South Korea's 28-man squad for the time being, but manager Kim In-sik said Wednesday their respective clubs may not ultimately approve of the players' competing in the March tournament.

After meeting with his coaches to make other roster changes, Kim In-sik said at a press conference that he expects some sort of a decision from the big league clubs before the end of January.

In this Associated Press file photo taken on Oct. 2, 2016, Choo Shin-soo of the Texas Rangers singles against the Tampa Bay Rays at Globe Life Park in Arlington, Texas. (Yonhap)

The three previous WBC tournaments all opened in early March, at a time when major league clubs are in spring training ahead of new seasons. Though Major League Baseball (MLB) organizes the event, its clubs haven't exactly been enthusiastic about releasing their players because of injury concerns.

The manager noted that Choo in particular remains a big question mark because of his injury history. The 34-year-old outfielder missed 114 games in 2016 and took four trips to the disabled list with assorted injuries.

The U.S. media reported last month that the Rangers planned to ask the WBC organizers to keep Choo out of the tournament. The Rangers' request falls under the WBC's "chronic condition" provision.

"When a high-priced player is coming off an injury-plagued season, then his club can pretty much determine what it wants to do with the player for the WBC," Kim said. "MLB, the club and the players' association are discussing the issue, and we expect a conclusion this month. But I think the club may get its wish in the end."

In this Associated Press file photo taken on Oct. 4, 2016, Kim Hyun-soo of the Baltimore Orioles reacts to a strike against the Toronto Blue Jays at Rogers Centre in Toronto. (Yonhap)

As for the Orioles' Kim, the manager said the player may also have to be with his major club for spring training since he will only be entering his second season and will need to further establish himself as an everyday player.

The outfielder spent the majority of the early 2016 season on the bench and made only 346 plate appearances in 95 games.

"It's really not up to us," the manager said of the outfielder's availability. "But I think Kim may be worried that he might get caught up in an awkward position with the club if he forces his way to play at the WBC."

Kim In-sik said he will convene another meeting with his coaches once the big league clubs make their decision.

"We'll just have to wait and see for now," the manager added. "We'll have to start thinking about possible replacements."

Gocheok Sky Dome in Seoul will host the first round games. The first game will be against Israel on March 6, followed by the Netherlands on March 7 and Chinese Taipei on March 9. All Korean games will start at 7 p.m.

The national team will open its training camp in Okinawa, Japan, on Feb. 12. Even if the two major leaguers make the national team, they will still have to be with their respective clubs in February and may only join South Korea just before the WBC.

jeeho@yna.co.kr
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