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(LEAD) S. Korean league All-Star replaces MLB player on nat'l team

All News 11:24 January 13, 2017

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By Yoo Jee-ho

SEOUL, Jan. 13 (Yonhap) -- South Korean league All-Star Son Ah-seop was added to the national team for the World Baseball Classic (WBC) on Friday.

The Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) said Son will replace Baltimore Orioles outfielder Kim Hyun-soo, who pulled himself out of consideration Wednesday.

Son, 28, is second among active KBO hitters with a career .323 batting average and has hit at least .300 in each of his past seven seasons. He has spent his entire 10-year career with the Lotte Giants.

Last year, Son played all 144 games, batting .323 with 16 home runs and 81 RBIs. Son also established career highs with 42 steals, 118 runs scored, 186 hits, 33 doubles and 92 walks.

Son helped South Korea win the 2014 Asian Games gold medal by going 6-for-16 with four RBIs and four runs scored. Then at the 2015 Premier 12, he was 4-for-12 while driving in a run and scoring three times.

Son said he was excited to have the chance to play alongside the country's best players, even though he was only selected as a late replacement.

"Being on the national team always requires responsibility, and I hope to make my share of contribution," Son said. "I know what my role will be. I'll try to be a good teammate nd pounce on the opportunity when I get it, be it as a pinch runner or a pinch hitter."

South Korean manager Kim In-sik first unveiled his 28-man roster in November, but teams are free to make changes until the Feb. 7 deadline. Kim's hand has been forced already with mounting injuries and off-field incidents.

In this file photo taken on April 19, 2016, Son Ah-seop of the Lotte Giants heads toward third base after a triple against the Hanwha Eagles in their Korea Baseball Organization regular season game at Sajik Stadium in Busan. (Yonhap)

Kim Hyun-soo took himself off the team under thinly veiled pressure from the Orioles, with manager Buck Showalter expressing his misgivings about his players' WBC participation through the local press.

Since the WBC is actually organized by Major League Baseball (MLB), clubs can't officially force the players to skip it. But the WBC, now in its fourth edition, has always been played in March, at a time when big leaguers are getting ready for new seasons in comparatively leisurely spring training games, instead of competing in more high-intensity affairs with national bragging rights at stake.

Kim was only a part-time player as a rookie last season, making only 346 plate appearances in 95 games, and will need to further establish himself in spring training next month.

Kim is primarily a left fielder while Son has spent the majority of his career in right field. Son said it doesn't matter where he plays and how much, as long as the team does well in the tournament.

"The most important thing is I'll be representing the country, and my playing time is not important at all," he said. "I got some reps in left field at the Premier 12, and I'll do the best I can regardless of the circumstances."

Another big league outfielder, Choo Shin-soo of the Texas Rangers, is in limbo, as his club has filed a request with the WBC organizers to keep the veteran out of the tournament.

Choo, 34, missed 114 games last year while taking four trips to the disabled list. He's entering the fourth year of his seven-year, US$130 million contract.

The KBO expects to learn of Choo's fate sometime after next Friday.


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