Overlooked Taiwan could prove barrier for Korea

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Overlooked Taiwan could prove barrier for Korea

Korea, the runner-up in the 2009 World Baseball Classic, has set its sights on first place in the latest baseball competition, but its WBC campaign may fall short again, this time due to Taiwan, its once overlooked neighbor.

Taiwan, paired in Pool B along with Korea, announced a 28-member roster on Monday, including 12 playing in the Major League or in Nippon Professional Baseball.

The team’s pitching is strong as out of 13 pitchers, nine have played abroad, including former Washington Nationals pitcher Wang Chien-ming, 32.

In his Major League debut year with the New York Yankees in 2005, Wang led the American League with 19 wins. He impressed with the same number in the next year. His big league career record through last year is 61-32, with 4.26 ERA.

The coming competition will be his first WBC appearance after he declined to play in the two previous WBC events due to concerns over an injury. This time, though, he appears to be strongly motivated as his future in the Major League is at stake.

Wang became a free agent after a difficult season last year in which he recorded two victories and three losses and a 6.68 ERA. An impressive performance at the WBC, to be watched by Major League scouters, could earn him a lucrative deal with a Major League team.

Taiwan manager Hsieh Chang-heng has said early on that Wang will start in the team’s major games, possibly against Korea.

Another Major League pitcher joining Team Taiwan is Kuo Hong-chih, formerly of the Los Angeles Dodgers. Since his 2005 debut, Kuo, 31, has 13 victories and 17 losses and a 3.73 ERA in the Major League.

Among the position players from overseas is Lin Che-hsuan, who made his big league debut last year with the Boston Red Sox. The 24-year-old outfielder went 0.250 last year.

Yang Dai-kang, 26, an outfielder with Japan’s Nippon Ham Fighters since 2007, is also a player to watch. He went 0.287, hit seven homers, and recorded 55 RBI and 17 steals.

His brother, Yang Yao-Hsun of Japan’s Softbank Hawks, 29, is also on the roster. The left-handed pitcher impressed with the a 1.48 ERA last season.

Among those from the domestic league is Lin Chih-shen of the Lamigo Monkeys, who led the offense when the team beat the Samsung Lions 3-0 during the Asia Series in November.

Rookie Tseng Jen-ho, 18, who surprised Korean baseball fans with his stellar pitching during the Asian Baseball Championship last month, also made it to the roster.

Taiwan lost all showdowns with Korea in the previous WBC. Korea, which placed third in the 2006 event, beat Taiwan 2-0 in the first group round, while it shut out Taiwan 9-0 in the preliminary stage of the 2009 event. Taiwan finished 12th in 2006 and 14th in 2009.


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


By Moon Gwang-lip

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