By Yoo Jee-ho
INCHEON, March 4 (Yonhap) — South Korea’s national team traveled to Japan for the World Baseball Classic (WBC) on Saturday, embarking on a journey of redemption after disappointments at previous events.
Led by Lee Kang-chul, South Korea will play two exhibition games in Osaka next week before heading to the Tokyo tournament.
South Korea will face the Orix Buffaloes on Monday and the Hanshin Tigers on Tuesday, both at the Kyocera Dome Osaka. His first Pool B game is against Australia on Thursday at the Tokyo Dome.
South Korea will next face Japan on Friday, the Czech Republic on March 12 and China on March 13.
The top two teams after the round robin will advance to the quarter-finals, against qualifiers from Group A – consisting of Chinese Taipei, Cuba, Italy, Panama and the Netherlands. The two quarter-finals of the teams from pools A and B will take place at the Tokyo Dome.
The semi-finals and final will take place at LoanDepot Park, home of the Miami Marlins.
South Korea finished third in the inaugural WBC in 2006 and second to Japan in the 2009 edition. However, they crashed out in the first round of each of the next two tournaments, in 2013 and 2017.
Speaking to reporters before boarding his flight to Osaka on Saturday, manager Lee said he was going to accept the pressure that comes with his job.
“It’s an honor to hold this position and I feel the weight of responsibility,” Lee said. “But I also see it as a great opportunity that few people would have. I will all try to bring back great results.
The 30-man national team includes two major leaguers: Kim Ha-seong of the San Diego Padres and Tommy Edman of the St. Louis Cardinals.
Edman was born in the United States to a Korean mother and an American father. He is the first foreign national to play for South Korea in an international baseball tournament, thanks to the WBC’s loose eligibility rules.
Kim and Edman only joined South Korea on Thursday for their first practice, unable to join the team for a two-week camp in Arizona due to club commitments. They were also ineligible for the South Korean scrum in Seoul on Friday, but will be able to play in both exhibitions in Osaka.
After Friday’s scrimmage, Lee hinted that Edman and Kim would reach the top of the order, setting the stage for a few boppers to follow. Lee also said the rest of the roster is mostly set, though he could change “one or two players, depending on the opposing starting pitcher in a given game.”
There are four former major leaguers in outfielder Kim Hyun-soo, infielder Park Byung-ho, and pitchers Kim Kwang-hyun and Yang Hyeon-jong.
Outfielder Lee Jung-hoo, the reigning Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) MVP, will have his first international showcase since his club, Kiwoom Heroes, announced in January that it would post Lee for major league clubs after the 2023 season.
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