Korean major leaguers remain in the U.S.

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Korean major leaguers remain in the U.S.


Ryu Hyun-jin of the Toronto Blue Jays, left, and Kim Kwang-hyun of St. Louis Cardinals throw their pitches during a spring training game. REUTERS/YONHAP, AP/YONHAP]

Every year, March had been the month where both the KBO and the MLB fans start to come out to the ballpark as the clubs get ready for the season by playing spring training games.

But this year, everything has stopped.

Due to the outbreak of the coronavirus, the MLB was also given no choice but to cancel all their remaining spring training games and postpone the start of the season by at least two weeks.

And on Friday last week, the MLB made another announcement: to suspend all spring training.

This led clubs and players to vote on what next steps to take. Options included remaining at spring training camp sites, closing the camps and practicing on their own or staying together as a team.

The move came as a huge blow to the four Korean major leaguers.

The four Koreans were all expected to make appearances in the major league this year. Following the postponement decision, all four decided to stay in the United States, rather than to head back home.

Ryu Hyun-jin of the Toronto Blue Jays, is expected to stay at the Blue Jays’ spring training camp site in Dunedin, Florida. Ryu was expected to make his start in a minor league game on Saturday, but due to the suspension, it was canceled.


Choo Shin-soo of the Texas Rangers, left, and Choi Ji-man of the Tampa Bay Rays train during a spring training camp. Along with the two Korean pitchers, Choo and Choi will also be staying in the United States to continue their training for the season.[AP/YONHAP]

The number of patients testing positive in Toronto had been increasing quickly, including Sophie Gregoire Trudeau, wife of Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who is one of the over 100 confirmed patients.

Due to this, the Blue Jays held a meeting on Monday to talk about their upcoming plans. The details of the meeting had not been announced as of press time in Korea.

However, regardless of the decision, Ryu plans on continuing his training according to a five-day starting rotation, as he is highly expected to be the Blue Jays’ starting pitcher in the opening game.

Kim Kwang-hyun of the St. Louis Cardinals is also expected to stay at the Cardinals’ spring training camp site in Jupiter, Florida, and continue training. Since the training site is restricted and has a tighter quarantine system, Kim decided that the Cardinals’ camp can be considered the safest place. Although the Cardinals closed their camp for the most part, Kim and a few of the other players stayed.

According to Kim’s agency, he is currently staying at his home in Florida and been going to the training site everyday. As the players will be called back to their clubs two weeks before the official start date of the season, Kim’s agent said it’ll be harder for him to head back home to Korea. Until then, the agency said that he will go through a training schedule where he pitches twice a week.

This could come as quite a disappointment for Kim, as he’s currently competing for a spot in the Cardinals’ starting rotation. Kim had been continuing his strong spring training campaign, where he tossed eight scoreless innings in four spring training games - two as a starter and two in reliefs. Not only will the sudden stop allow other clubs more time to analyze Kim’s pitches but it’ll also mean tougher competition for Kim for a spot on the Cardinals’ starting rotation as the postponement gives Miles Mikolas more time to successfully recover from an injury.

Aside from the two pitchers, Texas Rangers Choo Shin-soo, the oldest among the four, is expected to stay with his team, but in a new training site. It was reported that the Rangers’ players voted and came to a decision to remain together as a team.

The Rangers have been spending their spring training in Arizona but headed back to Texas to continue. Once the Rangers’ new stadium, Globe Life Field, is ready to open, which is scheduled for March 23, it is likely that the players will continue training there.

“We prepared the whole offseason and spring training, and a lot of guys are ready to start playing the season,” Choo was quoted as saying on the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. “Now we have to shut it down. We don’t want to lose that strength. We have to be prepared for the season whenever we start it. I think in these times you have to stick together and keep working out. We have to prepare for the season.”

The Fort Worth Star-Telegram also reported on Sunday, “[Joey] Gallow, Elvic Andrus and Shin-soo Choo are among the players who live locally, and players expected to be on the Opening Day roster likely have made living arrangements. They potentially will have access to the Urban Youth Academy in west Dallas. Potentially, but not definitively.”

Since the Tampa Bay Rays’ spring training camp site is relatively close to their home as they’ve been training in Florida, Choi Ji-man of the Rays will be staying in Florida and continue training for the season, which has been postponed indefinitely.

BY KIM HYO-KYUNG, KANG YOO-RIM [kang.yoorim@joongang.co.kr]
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