KBO clubs to start overseas training camps

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KBO clubs to start overseas training camps

The Korea Baseball Organization’s eight first-division teams and the Changwon NC Dinos, an expansion club, will leave for overseas training camps this weekend, hoping to ready the teams for the upcoming season.

The league has officially been out of action since the Lions won the Korean Series on Oct. 31. After just over two months, the clubs will be back at it with the symbolic start of the long road to the KBO championship. After basic physical training at home facilities, the teams are now heading overseas for more than 50 days to prepare for the April 7 opening day.

Five teams - the Busan Lotte Giants, Incheon SK Wyverns, Gwangju Kia Tigers, Seoul LG Twins and Seoul Nexen Heroes - will leave Korea on Sunday, followed by the Daejeon Hanwha Eagles and Daegu Samsung Lions on Monday.

The Seoul Doosan Bears will be the last club to leave Korea on Thursday after the Dinos, who will be joining the Futures’ League - the minor league of the KBO - to get ready for full-time participation in the first division in 2013. The Dinos head to its training camp in Arizona on Wednesday.

The eight first-division clubs will arrive in Japan in mid-February to compete in exhibition games against each other, getting a taste of how opponents will perform this upcoming season. Five teams will gather in Okinawa while the other three teams - the Giants, Bears and Heroes - will meet in Kagoshima.

Four of the eight teams will first fly to Arizona for training sessions before the games in Japan.

The Lions, the defending champions who claimed the KBO triple crown - champions of the regular season, Korean Series and Asia Series - under rookie manager Ryu Joong-il, go to Guam first and then Okinawa, Japan.

The team is scheduled to play the Orix Buffaloes of Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball in an exhibition game on Feb. 21, creating an interesting matchup between Lions slugger Lee Seung-yeop, a former Buffaloes player, and Orix’s newly recruited infielder Lee Dae-ho, a former Daegu star.

The Giants, last season’s runner-up in the regular season, and the Twins, who shared sixth place with the Eagles, have set different schedules for pitchers and field players during their preseason training camps.

The Giants are sending their pitchers to Saipan three days earlier than field players while the Twins have set different locations for pitchers (Saipan) and field players (Okinawa).

The Twins, under new manager Kim Ki-tae, are looking to end their postseason drought this season with rigorous preseason training. The 1990 and 1994 KBO champions haven’t appeared in the postseason for nine consecutive seasons, the longest current streak.

Kim has said his goal for this season is to lose no more than 60 games in the 133-game regular season, a record that would in all likelihood earn them a spot in the playoffs. The 42-year-old has already tightened club discipline, leaving out last year’s top performing pitcher Park Hyun-joon for the overseas training camp because he is not physically fit, emphasizing the message that “nobody gets special treatment” under his leadership.

The Eagles, who are now with former Major League Baseball pitcher Park Chan-ho, and the Heroes are staying in the United States until Feb. 18.

The Bears training camp has started on a somber note after the tragic news regarding the death of rookie player Lee Kyu-hwan, who apparently lost his footing in a stairwell while intoxicated on Tuesday.

By Joo Kyung-don [kjoo@joongang.co.kr]
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