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Another KBO manager voices displeasure with compressed season

All News 11:03 April 28, 2020

SEOUL, April 28 (Yonhap) -- The list of South Korean baseball managers unhappy with a compressed schedule for this season is growing.

Son Hyuk of the Kiwoom Heroes has joined four other skippers in the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) in criticizing the league office for forging ahead with the usual, 144-game schedule, despite the delayed start to the season. The 2020 Opening Day had been set for March 28, but the coronavirus outbreak forced the KBO to postpone it to next Tuesday.

The KBO and its board of governors -- presidents from 10 clubs -- have decided to squeeze 144 games into a tighter-than-usual window. This will inevitably necessitate double headers and games Monday, which is normally a designated off day in the KBO. The schedule will pick up from next Tuesday, meaning teams will scramble to make up for games missed between March 27 and May 4 in September and October. And there will be no All-Star break in July, either, robbing players of a chance to take a breather during the dog days of summer.

In this file photo from April, 21, 2020, Kiwoom Heroes manager Son Hyuk watches his Korea Baseball Organization's preseason game against the SK Wyverns at SK Happy Dream Park in Incheon, 40 kilometers west of Seoul. (Yonhap)

The league made a couple of concessions: there will not be twin bills during the summer months of July and August, and teams will be able to add one extra player to their active roster for double headers.

But almost immediately after the league announced the new schedule last Tuesday, managers started speaking out against it. Kim Tae-hyoung of the defending champions Doosan Bears was the first to openly criticize the 144-game setting, soon followed by Youm Kyoung-youb of the SK Wyverns, Ryu Joong-il of the LG Twins, and Lee Kang-chul of the KT Wiz.

Then prior to his team's preseason game Monday evening, Son chimed in with his two cents.

"As a former pitching coach, I think playing 144 games (in a compressed calendar) will indeed be difficult," Son told reporters at Gocheok Sky Dome in Seoul. "I am sure it will hurt pitchers."

There will be no All-Star break that would allow players to take a breather during a normal season. If the season goes uninterrupted, the champion will be crowned at the end of the November. And there will be little rest for the weary star players who will be called up for the national team duty at the World Baseball Classic (WBC) early next year, followed by the Tokyo Olympics, postponed from this year, in July.

This photo, provided by the Kiwoom Heroes on April 27, 2020, shows the Korea Baseball Organization club's pitcher Lee Seung-ho in action against the LG Twins in a preseason game at Gocheok Sky Dome in Seoul. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

"Let's say someone will pitch the regular season and the postseason this year, and then the WBC and the Olympics next year. Maybe he'll be able to gut it out in 2021," Son said. "But then it'll be a different story in 2022. If pitchers don't get enough rest, it only increases the risk of injury. And when star pitchers break down, it will affect the overall quality of our league."

As a pitcher, Son retired at age 31 after just 107 appearances across eight seasons. He should have been in the prime of his career at that age, but his body did not hold up.

"I had to quit early, and I soon realized the life on the mound is so much better than the one off the mound," he said. "I want my pitchers to stay in baseball as long as they can."

jeeho@yna.co.kr
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