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S. Korea cancels practice game ahead of World Baseball Classic

All Headlines 11:03 February 15, 2017

URUMA, Japan, Feb. 15 (Yonhap) -- South Korea on Wednesday canceled a scheduled practice game against a Korean minor league club in its preparation for next month's World Baseball Classic (WBC).

The national team manager Kim In-sik said South Korea will not face the minor league affiliate of the LG Twins next Tuesday as planned in Uruma, Japan. He said he made the call to protect his pitchers.

South Korea will now play two practice games against Japanese clubs during its camp here: the Yomiuri Giants on Sunday and the Yokohama DeNA BayStars next Wednesday.

Kim said he and his two pitching coaches, Sun Dong-yol and Song Jin-woo, decided that playing three games in a four-day span might tax the pitching staff.

South Korea has named 13 pitchers to its 28-man roster, but St. Louis Cardinals' closer Oh Seung-hwan will be in spring training with his big league club and won't join the national team until late this month.

Three of the pitchers in the camp, including one-time Chicago Cubs reliever Lim Chang-yong, are lagging behind the rest of the staff and haven't started throwing in the bullpen.

On the other hand, Kim has been pleased with two of his left-handers, Chang Won-jun and Cha Woo-chan -- so much that they will both get some work in the first practice game against Yomiuri.

South Korean pitchers Chang Won-jun (C) and Cha Woo-chan stretch during the national team practice ahead of the World Baseball Classic in Uruma, Japan, on Feb. 14, 2017. (Yonhap)

Kim said Chang, 15-game winner for the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) champions Doosan Bears, will get the starting nod. Cha, who joined the Twins on a lucrative free agent deal this offseason, will also get some reps.

"We will use six pitchers against Yomiuri," Kim said. "Chang Won-jun will throw the first two innings."

Kim said Cha will also toss two innings, with four other pitchers splitting the five remaining innings.

Chang will be penciled in as a starter at the actual tournament. The manager hasn't settled on the role for Cha, who has been equally effective as a starter and a reliever throughout his KBO career.

Kim said it will depend on the form of right-hander Rhee Dae-eun. Rhee hasn't even started his bullpen program, but if he can find his groove and can join the starting rotation, then Cha will move to the bullpen.

If Rhee can't start, then Cha will be asked to be a starter for South Korea.

As for the second practice game against the BayStars, Yang Hyeon-jong, left-handed starter for the KBO's Kia Tigers, will get the starting assignment.

jeeho@yna.co.kr
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