Pitching dogs national baseball team

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Pitching dogs national baseball team

The national baseball team is entering its final phase of training ahead of the 2010 Asian Games, but has still not resolved some issues on the mound.

Managed by Cho Beom-hyun of the Kia Tigers, Korea is coming off a 20-day training camp and four practice games at Sajik Baseball Stadium in Busan. It is set to hold two more practices on Thursday and Friday to make final adjustments before leaving for Guangzhou, China.

At the start of the training camp, Cho had been concerned with his team’s batting. Some players had not played in more than a month, while those who participated in the KBO playoffs were fatigued from a lengthy postseason.

Already being mentioned among the all-time best batters assembled in the history of Korean national teams, Cho’s squad boasts the likes of Choo Shin-soo of the Cleveland Indians, Lee Dae-ho of the Lotte Giants and Kim Hyun-soo of the Doosan Bears. Also set to add more power to an already potent lineup is Kim Tae-kyun of the Chiba Lotte Marines, who helped his club to a Nippon Professional Baseball Japan Series win in seven games over the Chunichi Dragons yesterday.

Choo, Lee and Kim Hyun-soo have all hit well in the last two practice games.

“I was most concerned about how our batters would fare in game situations,” Cho said. “It doesn’t matter how good you are, if you are not hitting well, you won’t even be able to hit a fastball down the middle. With the tourney getting closer, the concentration level of our players and their play have noticeably improved.”

While Cho is pleased with the progress of his batters, he still has concerns about his pitchers. Ryu Hyun-jin of the Hanwha Eagles is clearly the top pitcher on the squad and will be expected to carry the load in key games. Ryu has been sluggish in practice games and has been slow to regain his regular season form.

In the first practice game, Ryu was tagged for three runs on three hits in two innings of work. He gave up five runs on eight hits in 3 2/3 innings in his next outing. His fastball clocked in at 140-kilometers (87 miles) per hour.

“Hyun-jin has been slow to regain his form, because he has had about two months off,” said Kim Si-jin, the national team pitching coach. “He’s also been bogged down by the pressure of being the ace in the rotation. On a positive note, he is making progress and is steadily regaining his form.”

In the bullpen, Yang Hyun-jong of the Kia Tigers has also been rusty. The only two pitchers who managed to have solid outings were Yoon Seok-min and Bong Jung-keun.

In Guangzhou, Korea faces its toughest game of the group stage against Taiwan on Saturday. Cho has decided to go with recent proven production over name value.

If Ryu Hyun-jin fails to recover his pace in time for Saturday’s game, expect Yoon Seok-min or Bong Jung-keun to get the start.

By Kim Dong-hwan, Jason Kim [jason@joongang.co.kr]
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