National baseball team replaces 4 players
From the original roster announced on June 11, four players - pitchers Cha Woo-chan and Jeong Chan-heon of the LG Twins, third baseman Choi Jeong of the SK Wyverns and outfielder Park Kun-woo of the Doosan Bears - were left out of the final lineup.
In their stead are pitchers Choi Won-tae of the Nexen Heroes, Jang Pil-joon of the Samsung Lions, third baseman Hwang Jae-gyun of the KT Wiz and outfielder Lee Jung-hoo of the Heroes.
“Until Sunday, we have been closely monitoring the players’ conditions, both in the final entry and preliminary entry, and discussing them with the clubs’ trainers,” said Sun Dong-yol, manager of the national team.
“Of the players, we thought Cha Woo-chan and the others would not be able to play at the level of a national team at the Asian Games due to injuries and other struggles, so we decided to make changes to the roster.”
Choi and Park, the third baseman and outfielder, were the first to be struck from the final roster.
Hwang, who is replacing Choi, is an experienced third baseman. He was a part of the national team that won gold at the 2014 Asian Games and 2015 WBSC Premier12. This season with the Wiz, he has a batting average of .291 with 19 home runs and 66 RBIs in 108 games.
Jang, who is replacing Jeong as pitcher, worked under Sun before when he managed a team for the Asia Professional Baseball Championship, a tournament only open to young or inexperienced players in Tokyo. Jang played as the team’s closer.
This season, Jang has been a crucial member of the Lions’ bullpen, recording a 3.78 ERA with four wins, nine holds and six saves. His statistics this season qualifies him to be on the national team.
Replacing Cha as the starting pitcher is Choi of the Heroes. Although Cha has been added back to the KBO entry, he was excluded from the national team roster because of lingering pain in his hip joints that has hindered his performance.
Among domestic players in the KBO, Choi is the current leader in wins, at 13, with a 3.97 ERA. It will be Choi’s first time competing for the national team.
While the three replacements mentioned were no surprise, the selection of Lee was. He returned from an injury in July, and so far this season, he has had a batting average of .369 with 124 hits and 61 runs in 80 games. His name was not mentioned as a possible replacement because the national team already had one too many left-handed batters.
But his stats this season, especially after an injury, make him the best replacement for Park in the outfield. After returning from an injury in July, his August batting average is .510.
Before leaving for Indonesia on Aug. 23, the team will gather for the first call-up at Jamsil Baseball Stadium in southern Seoul on Saturday.
The Asian Games open in Indonesia on Saturday.
BY PARK SO-YOUNG, KANG YOO-RIM [firstname.lastname@example.org]