By Yoo Jee-ho
SEOUL, Jan. 18 (Yonhap) -- The Hanwha Eagles, the perennial doormats in South Korean baseball, have finally finished in first place in something.
On Monday, the Eagles became the first Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) club to welcome all three foreign players to the country for spring training.
Hanwha's new right-hander Nick Kingham landed in South Korea early Monday to join teammates Ryan Carpenter and Ryon Healy, who'd arrived Sunday. KBO teams will open spring training on Feb. 1.
During the coronavirus pandemic, all international arrivals into South Korea must serve 14-day quarantine, and the Eagles should have all three foreign players ready at the onset of their camp.
Clubs have said some players have experienced delays in getting their work permits processed, due to effects of the pandemic.
Aside from the Eagles, only the NC Dinos and SK Wyverns have foreign players currently in the country, while the Kia Tigers are scheduled to have two out of their three foreign players later Monday.
For the Dinos, right-hander Drew Rucinski and outfielder Aaron Altherr arrived here Saturday, but their new pitcher Wes Parsons doesn't have his work visa yet.
Jamie Romak and Artie Lewicki of the Wyverns also landed in Korea on Saturday, but a third member of the group, right-hander Wilmer Font, is waiting to receive his work permit.
The Tigers will have outfielder Preston Tucker and pitcher Daniel Mengden here by Monday, while another pitcher, Aaron Brooks, is scheduled to arrive Friday.
The Eagles, coming off a last-place finish in 2020, have rebuilt their coaching staff and put Venezuelan manager Carlos Subero in charge. Subero, bench coach Darryl Kennedy, and pitching coach Jose Rosado all arrived last Monday. Jay Washington, the team's new hitting coach, is expected to travel later this month.
While Washington serves his quarantine, Subero and Kennedy will handle hitting instruction, an Eagles official said.
The KT Wiz said their new outfielder Zoilo Almonte will land in Korea on Wednesday, but travel schedules for their two remaining foreign players, pitchers William Cuevas and Odrisamer Despaigne, are still up in the air.
Most other clubs haven't so much set a date yet. The Doosan Bears expect their trio -- Ariel Miranda, Walker Lockett and Jose Miguel Fernandez -- in early February. The Kiwoom Heroes are still in need of a foreign hitter after re-signing Eric Jokisch and newly acquiring Josh A. Smith.
With travel restrictions in place during the pandemic, all KBO teams will hold spring training at home, rather than in warm locations such as Arizona, Florida or Australia.
At least, there is more clarity to the buildup to this season than the last. After completing their overseas camps in late February or early March, some KBO teams chose to send their foreign players home while the virus was raging through South Korea. As the situation here improved while that in the United States -- home to most players -- worsened, KBO clubs scrambled to bring their foreign players back to South Korea. Those had to serve their 14-day quarantine, and some players never quite recovered from missing a big chunk of preseason time.
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