By Yoo Jee-ho
SEOUL, April 9 (Yonhap) -- South Korea on Monday announced its 109-player provisional baseball roster for the 2018 Asian Games.
National team manager Sun Dong-yol unveiled a list of 52 pitchers, seven catchers, six first basemen, eight second basemen, nine third basemen, eight shortstops and 19 outfielders. There were 105 players from the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) professional league and four college players.
There was no cap on the number of players that could be placed on the provisional team, and only those on this preliminary roster may be named to the final team of 24 players.
The 2018 Asian Games will take place in Jakarta and Palembang, Indonesia, from Aug. 18 to Sept. 2, and baseball will be played at Gelora Bung Karno Sports Complex in Jakarta.
The deadline to submit the provisional roster is Wednesday. The KBO said it hasn't been informed of the deadline for the submission of the final roster.
South Korea is the two-time defending champion in baseball. The KBO will go on an Asian Games break from Aug. 16 to Sept. 3 to accommodate the regional competition.
The provisional roster includes some obvious choices, including three former Major League Baseball (MLB) players who have returned to the KBO this year: Nexen Heroes first baseman Park Byung-ho, KT Wiz third baseman Hwang Jae-gyun and LG Twins outfielder Kim Hyun-soo.
Kia Tigers' left-hander Yang Hyeon-jong, the 2017 KBO regular season and Korean Series MVP, should be one of the starters for the national team, alongside the 2008 regular season MVP Kim Kwang-hyun, an SK Wyverns starter who has returned to form in 2018 after missing the entire 2017 season with an elbow injury.
Winning an Asian Games gold medal grants South Korean men an exemption from mandatory military service. Some past Asian Games managers had taken heat for including borderline players apparently to help them get the military service exemptions.
But Sun has often said he would try to pick the best players available at his disposal, regardless of their military status.
Athletes in sports such as baseball and football can complete their service while playing on military teams in a league with other pro clubs, but only those 27 or younger can apply for those spots.
The provisional baseball team does include a pair of KBO regulars who are past that age limit and who will have to join the military as early as next year if they don't win an Asian Games gold medal. They are LG Twins' shortstop Oh Ji-hwan and Samsung Lions' outfielder Park Hae-min, both 28.
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