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Baseball preseason set to start next week with returning All-Stars in fold

All Headlines 08:39 March 09, 2018

SEOUL, March 9 (Yonhap) -- South Korean baseball's preseason will begin next Tuesday, with former All-Stars making their return from stints in the majors.

The 10 clubs in the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) will each play eight preseason games through March 21. The exhibition phase will allow teams to test their assets in game situations, and the KBO said preseason games are open to all players in each organization, regardless of their roster status. Last year, an average of 43.5 players saw action in each preseason game.

Whereas teams may only use two out of their three foreign players in a given game during the regular season, all three can appear in the same preseason game.

But there is a lot more than raw rookies and highly touted prospects for the fans to look forward to, as one-time big leaguers have returned to their native land.

This file photo taken Oct. 29, 2017, shows a capacity crowd of 25,000 at Jamsil Stadium in Seoul for Game 4 of the Korean Series between the home team Doosan Bears and the Kia Tigers. (Yonhap)

Former Minnesota Twins designated hitter Park Byung-ho rejoined his former KBO club, Nexen Heroes, over the winter. The two-time KBO MVP and four-time home run king will try to recover his power stroke after spending most of his two-year U.S. stint in the minors.

Two other former major leaguers have signed with new KBO clubs. Third baseman Hwang Jae-gyun, who moved from the KBO's Lotte Giants to the San Francisco Giants in the majors in 2017, will be plying his trade for the KT Wiz. Hwang will look to bring the team out of the league cellar; this expansion franchise has finished in the bottom of the KBO standings in each of the past three seasons.

Kim Hyun-soo, who split his major league career with the Baltimore Orioles and the Philadelphia Phillies over the past two years, will patrol the outfield for the LG Twins. Kim was an All-Star and a batting champion for the Doosan Bears before signing with Baltimore in December 2015 and will now be playing for the Bears' Seoul rival. The Twins and the Bears are co-tenants of Jamsil Stadium in the nation's capital.

Preseason performances haven't often led to regular season success. In 2017, the Wiz finished first in preseason and dead last in the regular season. The Kia Tigers ranked only seventh in preseason but went on to win both the pennant and the Korean Series championship.

Only five clubs have gone on to take the Korean Series title after posting the best preseason record, the most recent being the 2007 SK Wyverns.

This spring, teams will only play eight preseason games apiece in an abbreviated schedule, down from 12 last year and 16 in 2016. The regular season will begin March 24, the fastest start to a season in the KBO's 36-year history.

The KBO scheduled such an early start to account for a break during the Asian Games in Jakarta and Palembang, Indonesia, from Aug. 18 to Sept. 2. South Korea is the defending champion in baseball, and the national team will be almost entirely made up of KBO stars. The league will go on a hiatus from Aug. 16 to Sept. 3.

jeeho@yna.co.kr
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