중앙데일리

Spring hopes high before summer realities set in

Mar 14,2007
The SK Wyverns, seen here in spring training in Jeju Island, have brought in three new starters for the season. Provided by the team
Korean baseball teams are wrapping up their spring training in sunny Florida and Arizona, and will begin playing exhibition games Saturday in Korea. Before the season begins April 6, here is a look at the issues each team is trying to resolve.
Teams are listed in order of last season’s standings.

Samsung Lions: The defending champions’ rotation has taken some hits.
Last season’s No. 1 starter, Bae Young-soo, is out for the season after elbow surgery, and No. 2 pitcher Tim Harikkala signed with the LG Twins. Im Dong-gyu, a candidate for the fifth spot in the rotation, has missed spring training for undisclosed personal reasons.
New foreign pitcher Kris Wilson has struggled mightily this spring, allowing 19 hits and nine earned runs in nine innings pitched.
Lim Chang-yong is attempting to come back from Tommy John surgery.
Hanwha Eagles: The key is how new imports, pitcher Cedric Bowers and outfielder Jacob Cruz, adjust.
Several foreign position players, including the Kia Tigers’ Scott Seabol, Lotte Giants’ Brian Myro and John Gall and SK Wyverns’ Calvin Pickering, were released in mid-season. The pressure is on Cruz, the former San Francisco Giants’ first round pick, because he is replacing Jay Davis, the longest-serving foreign player in Korean league history. In his seven seasons with the Eagles, Davis averaged 24 home runs and 84 runs batted in, with a .313 batting average.

Hyundai Unicorns: Their primary concern is the team’s immediate future, and whether someone will rescue them from financial hardship. On the field, catcher Kim Dong-soo, who turns 40 in October, does not have a strong backup. In December, team president Kim Yong-hui publicly said he would like to trade for a catcher, adding he had enough pitchers. Last year’s backup, Gang Gui-tae, is about to join military, and No. 3 Huh Joon has only played three games over the last two seasons. The team had a 3.02 earned run average with Kim Dong-soo behind the plate, but a 5.07 ERA when he didn’t catch.

Kia Tigers: Even after signing 2005 home run leader Larry Sutton, the Tigers’ lineup lacks bite. Manager Seo Jeong-hwan has vowed he would try to compensate for the power shortage with small ball. Han Ki-joo, the highly touted rookie last year who struggled in the rotation, will be the closer this season. Last year’s closer, Yoon Seok-min, who had 19 saves and a 2.28 ERA, will start. How these young hurlers adjust to their new assignments will determine the fate of the Cinderella team of 2006.

Doosan Bears: Former No. 1 starter Park Myung-hwan has joined the Twins, Doosan’s rival in Seoul, signing a four-year, 4 billion won ($4.2 million) free agent deal. Lefty Lee Hye-chun is set to enlist in the military this year. It’s a thin rotation after Daniel Rios and Matt Randle, and young guns Kim Myung-je and Geum Min-cheol only won six games combined in 2006. On the brighter side, third baseman and cleanup hitter Kim Dong-joo is healthy again after dislocating his shoulder last March in the World Baseball Classic, and Yoo Jae-woong, a left-handed power hitter, has rejoined the club as the No. 3 hitter after two years in the military.

SK Wyverns: This team has gone through significant changes. It has three new starting pitchers: Kenny Rayborn, who won 16 games in Taiwan last year; Michael Romano, formerly with the Japanese league; and rookie lefty Kim Kwang-hyun, will join last year’s workhorse Chei Byung-yong. Jeong Dae-hyun, who notched 15 saves last year as a part-time closer and middle reliever, will get most of the work as closer, now that Jose Cabrera has joined the Lotte Giants. The lineup offers a solid blend of power and contact, as two-time 30-homer man Lee Ho-jun returns from his military service to join Lee Jin-young, Kim Jae-hyun, Park Kyung-wan and Park Jae-hong, who are all capable of hitting .300 and belting 20 home runs.

Lotte Giants: The pitching has improved, but only last year’s Triple Crown winner Lee Dae-ho and 2001 batting champ Felix Jose are threats in this dismal lineup. The team is still searching for the No. 3 hitter to hit in front of the two. Lee In-gu, Kim Joo-chan and Park Hyun-seung are all getting long looks this spring.

LG Twins: This team has lost career .312 hitter Lee Byung-kyu to Japan, and has yet to find his replacement in the No. 3 hole. The Twins have added two very good starters, Park Myung-hwan and Tim Harikkala, to the rotation, and also brought back former major leaguer Bong Jung-keun, but have yet to settle on a closer. Lee Dong-hyun, who saved 12 games in 2004, is coming back from the military service, which was cut short by lingering pains from Tommy John surgery.


By Yoo Jee-ho Staff Writer [jeeho@joongang.co.kr]



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