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S. Korean manager remains concerned about struggling right-hander

All Headlines 15:23 March 03, 2017

SEOUL, March 3 (Yonhap) -- With the World Baseball Classic (WBC) fast approaching, South Korean manager Kim In-sik said Friday he is still concerned about his struggling right-hander Rhee Dae-eun.

Rhee, a former Chicago Cubs prospect, was expected to be one of three starters for South Korea in the first round action in Pool A, with Israel, the Netherlands and Chinese Taipei lined up as the opponents at Gocheok Sky Dome in Seoul. The first game is against Israel at 6:30 p.m. Monday.

In practice games leading up to the tournament, however, Rhee has done little to justify a spot in the rotation.

South Korean national baseball manager Kim In-sik watches his team's practice ahead of the World Baseball Classic at Gocheok Sky Dome in Seoul on March 3, 2017. (Yonhap)

He has given up seven runs on 11 hits in 4 1/3 innings over his past three appearances. On Thursday, he made a start against the South Korean minor league club Sangmu, a team made up of conscripted players, and was touched for four runs on six hits in just 1 1/3 innings.

Kim said Friday he feels Rhee still doesn't have his legs under him, "even though he's been putting in work."

Rhee joined the Korean Police Baseball Team last year to complete his mandatory military service and underwent his basic training just before the start of the national team's WBC camp in February. His lack of baseball training prior to the camp had caused some concern among the coaches, and their fears have been realized.

While Rhee is still able to throw his fastball close to 150 kmh (93.2 mph), Kim believes Rhee doesn't have a good command of his pitches.

"He doesn't lack the velocity, but his pitches don't have the bite to them," the manager said. "And he's leaving his pitches high in the zone."

Rhee's previous stint with the national team was successful, as South Korea was crowned the inaugural champion of the Premier 12 tournament in late 2015.

The WBC is a more pressure-packed competition with less margin for error, and Kim likely won't risk sending Rhee into a win-or-go-home situation unless the 27-year-old can turn it around in a hurry.

South Korean pitcher Rhee Dae-eun (R) leaves the field during a practice game against Sangmu in preparation for the World Baseball Classic at Gocheok Sky Dome in Seoul on March 2, 2017. (Yonhap)

Left-hander Chang Won-jun, a 15-game winner for the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) champions Doosan Bears, will start against Israel. Another KBO left-hander, Yang Hyeon-jong of the Kia Tigers, is scheduled to start in a practice game against the police team Saturday, meaning he'll likely start against Chinese Taipei next Thursday. Kim said Yang will throw about 65 pitches Saturday.

Woo Kyu-min, a KBO right-hander with a sidearm delivery, is expected to get the nod against the Netherlands next Tuesday.


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