WBC team heads off to Japan to train

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WBC team heads off to Japan to train

Members of the Korean national baseball team left for Japan Sunday for a training camp ahead of the World Baseball Classic (WBC).

South Korea will open the first round on March 6 at the Gocheok Sky Dome in Seoul against Israel, with the Netherlands and Chinese Taipei being the other opponents in Pool A. The top two teams will advance to the next round.

Korea will be in Okinawa until Feb. 23. It will play two Japanese pro clubs - the Yomiuri Giants and the Yokohama DeNA BayStars - and the minor league affiliate of the KBO club LG Twins.

Kim In-sik, who managed South Korea at the 2006 and 2009 WBCs and again at the 2015 Premier 12, said the road to the 2017 WBC has been the toughest of them all.’

“I’d say I am more nervous now than I was before the Premier 12,” Kim told reporters at Incheon International Airport, referring to the tournament that South Korea ended up winning. “The WBC is a bigger event, and we’ve never had so many unpredictable bumps like this.”

Kim has had to scramble to assemble a healthy 28-man roster for this year’s competition. A handful of KBO stars pulled out following offseason surgeries. Among the country’s major league players, Los Angeles Dodgers’ Ryu Hyun-jin and Minnesota Twins’ Park Byung-ho were never considered because of injuries.

Choo Shin-soo of the Texas Rangers and Kim Hyun-soo of the Baltimore Orioles were dropped from the roster because of their club commitments.

That has left some positions wide open for competition within the team. Kim also said he likely won’t determine specific roles for his relief pitchers until right before the tournament.’

“It took us a long time to put together the final roster,” the manager added. “But we’re going to try to put that behind us and concentrate on training.”

Once back home from Okinawa, South Korea will face Cuba on Feb. 25 and 26, and Australia on Feb. 28 in exhibition games.

From the 28-man team, 21 flew out of Incheon on Sunday. Five KBO players are already training in Okinawa with their respective clubs and will join the national team Sunday.

Lee Dae-ho, former Seattle Mariners first baseman who recently rejoined his former KBO club Lotte Giants, is training in Arizona, and will travel to Okinawa on Friday. St. Louis Cardinals closer Oh Seung-hwan, the lone major leaguer for South Korea, will join the national team on Feb. 27.

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