Korea opts for experience over youth in World Baseball Classic

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Korea opts for experience over youth in World Baseball Classic

Park Byung-ho, the Nexen Heroes first baseman who was named the Most Valuable Player for the 2012 Korea Baseball Organization season, was left off the national team roster for the upcoming World Baseball Classic.

Team Korea manager Ryu Joong-il has stacked the team with veterans, betting that players experienced with the international tournament will lead the nation to its third straight semifinal appearance.

The KBO announced the 28-man preliminary roster for the third WBC yesterday. Eighteen have played in at least one previous WBC event, including five who have played in two.

Kim Tae-kyun, 30, of the Hanwha Eagles; Lee Dae-ho, 30, of the Orix Buffaloes; and Lee Seung-yeop, 36, of the Samsung Lions were selected as first basemen. All three have represented Korea during at least one previous WBC tournament, with Kim playing in two. Lee Seung-yeop played in the inaugural event in 2006 while Lee Dae-ho took the field in 2009.

Park, 26, garnered 73 out of 91 votes for the MVP honor on Nov. 5 after leading the league with 31 home runs, 105 RBI and a .561 slugging percentage, his best performance in his eight-year professional stint. The former LG Twins slugger was not called on for the two previous WBC events.

“Park Byung-ho is a good player, but I was hesitant over his lack of international experience,” manager Ryu told reporters yesterday. “Lee Seung-yeop, Kim Tae-kyun and Lee Dae-ho already had their skills tested on a global stage and have experience playing in Japan.”

Ryu’s preference for experience was also seen in his choice for right fielder. He reserved one of the two slots for Choo Shin-soo of the Cleveland Indians, who represented Korea in the second WBC. The other spot went to Lee Jin-young of the LG Twins, 32, who played in both WBC events. Son A-seop of the Lotte Giants, 24, who led the league in hits with 158 narrowly missed out on the selection.

The Team Korea roster was announced after Ryu’s Samsung Lions, the 2012 Korean Series winner, suffered a humiliating group stage knockout at the hands of Taiwan during the Asia Series. Ryu apologized to the public for the lackluster performance and promised to not make the same mistakes at the WBC.

Korea finished third in the inaugural WBC tournament and improved to second in the 2009 tournament.

Aside from Kim Tae-kyun and Lee Jin-young, three pitchers who played during both WBC events made the preliminary roster, including Oh Seung-hwan, 30, of the Lions, Chong Tae-hyon, 34, of the Giants and Bong Jung-keun, 32, of the Twins.

Ryu Hyun-jin, 25, the Eagles ace who entered exclusive negotiations with the Los Angeles Dodgers, was also among 13 pitchers in the preliminary roster.

By Moon Gwang-lip [joe@joongang.co.kr]

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