S. Korea to face 2 ex-MLB players for Australia in opening WBC game
By Yoo Jee-ho
SEOUL, Feb. 10 (Yonhap) -- Australia, South Korea's first opponent at the upcoming World Baseball Classic (WBC), will feature two former major leaguer players on its 30-man roster.
In a roster reveal show on MLB Network on Thursday evening (U.S. time), Australia unveiled its squad featuring former Detroit Tigers pitcher Warwick Saupold and ex-Minnesota Twins outfielder Aaron Whitefield.
South Korea had already announced its team in January, though it was forced to make one final change this week when the Pittsburgh Pirates blocked the participation of first baseman Choi Ji-man, based on his elbow surgery in November. Choi Ji-hoon, an outfielder for the SSG Landers in the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO), was picked to take Choi Ji-man's spot on the 30-man squad.
Saupold has also played for the Hanwha Eagles in the KBO, going 8-4 with a 4.98 ERA in 82 appearances for the Tigers from 2016 to 2018. Whitefield has logged just 11 plate appearances for the Twins in 2020 and 2022, going hitless with five strikeouts.
South Korea will open Pool B action against Australia on March 9 at Tokyo Dome. Managed by Lee Kang-chul, South Korea will also take on Japan, China and the Czech Republic.
The top two teams after round-robin play will qualify for the quarterfinals, which will also be at Tokyo Dome for Pool B nations.
With world No. 1 Japan, stacked with major league and domestic league stars, heavily favored to win the group, South Korea and Australia are expected to duel for the last Pool B ticket to the quarterfinals. Lee and his players have circled the Australian game as a must-win affair.
Beat Australia and then China and the Czechs, two underdogs of the group, and South Korea should grab at least the second seed behind Japan even if it loses to the host country. But a loss to Australia will spell doom for South Korea, unless it can somehow upset Japan.
Lee specifically selected KBO pitchers known for breaking balls because he believes Australian hitters will struggle against those pitches.
South Korea expects Saupold to start on March 9 because of his familiarity with his opponents. In the 2019 and 2020 seasons for the Eagles, the 33-year-old right-hander went 22-24 with a 4.16 ERA in 59 games.
South Korea has two active major league players in Kim Ha-seong of the San Diego Padres and Tommy Edman of the St. Louis Cardinals, who was born to a Korean mother in Michigan and is thus allowed to represent South Korea under WBC's loose regulations on eligibility. Four other players have prior major league experience: first baseman Park Byung-ho, outfielder Kim Hyun-soo, pitcher Kim Kwang-hyun and pitcher Yang Hyeon-jong.
For Australia, other familiar names include Tim Kennelly, who also represented his country at the 2009, 2013 and 2017 WBCs, and Tim Atherton, who pitched at the 2017 WBC.
One high-profile Australian, Chicago White Sox closer Liam Hendriks, was kept off the team as he is undergoing treatment for Non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
(URGENT) S. Korea's science minister confirms space rocket Nuri's launch success
Three indicted in massive stock manipulation case
(3rd LD) Passenger opens door of Asiana Airlines plane before landing at Daegu airport
BTS' J-Hope completes basic training for military service
(6th LD) S. Korea successfully launches space rocket Nuri in major milestone for space program
N. Korea's aircraft maintenance activity at 'unusual' level: 38 North
(LEAD) Asiana Airlines plane's door opens right before landing at Daegu Airport
(2nd LD) S. Korean experts begin on-site inspection of Fukushima nuclear plant
(3rd LD) S. Korea delays launch of space rocket Nuri over technical glitch
Key political figures gather at memorial service of late President Roh
U.S. military stages 'Elephant Walk' training with F-16 fighters
(LEAD) Japanese warship arrives in S. Korea for multinational WMD-interception naval drill
N. Korea notifies Japan of plan to launch satellite between May 31-June 11: Kyodo
S. Korea slams N. Korea's planned satellite launch, warns of consequences
(LEAD) N. Korea notifies Japan of plan to launch satellite between May 31-June 11: Kyodo