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Injuries force coach to rethink national baseball team roster

Aug 08,2018
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From top: Choi Jeong of the SK Wyverns swings during a game against the Nexen Heroes at Gocheok Sky Dome. Park Kun-woo of the Doosan Bears watches a hit during a game against the KT Wiz at Jamsil Baseball Stadium. Cha Woo-chan of the LG Twins throws a pitch during a game against the Heroes at Jamsil Baseball Stadium. [YONHAP]
With injuries and poor performance plaguing the Korean baseball team for the 2018 Asian Games, manager Sun Dong-yol has admitted that he will have to go back to the drawing board and make changes to the final roster.

Players excluded from the KBO entry as of Friday this week will be excluded from the Asian Games roster. As of Tuesday, three players - Choi Jeong of the SK Wyverns, Park Kun-woo of the Doosan Bears and Park Min-woo of the NC Dinos - are excluded due to injury.

As Choi and Park Kun-woo need at least three to four weeks to fully recover from their injuries, it is very likely that they’ll miss the Asian Games. Park Min-woo is slowly getting back in shape from an injury by playing in Futures League games, but it is unclear if he has any chance of returning to form in time.

Sun will draw on his original preliminary entry list of 109 players to recruit the replacements.

Hur Kyoung-min of the Bears, Hwang Jae-gyun of the KT Wiz and Lee Won-seok of the Samsung Lions are being mentioned as possible replacement for Choi.

In the outfield, Na Sung-bum of the Dinos and Lee Jung-hoo of the Nexen Heroes were added to the preliminary entry but as the four outfielders that are already added to the final entry are all left-handed batters, Min Byung-hun of the Lotte Giants and Kim Dong-yub of the Wyverns are also being mentioned as potential replacements for Park.

“Under the agreement of the manager and the coaching staff, if a player is considered to be having difficulty playing at the level of the national team, they will be switched out from the Asian Games entry,” announced the KBO on Monday.

Though simply struggling won’t lead a player to be excluded from the entry, struggling to get back in shape after an injury will be considered. Cha Woo-chan of the LG Twins is most likely to get excluded from the final entry under this regulation.

Cha returned to the KBO after a hip injury on Saturday, but his performance made it clear he hasn’t fully recovered - he gave up eight runs in four innings against the Wyverns. Due to this, Choi Won-tae of the Heroes and Kim Kwang-hyun of the Wyverns are being mentioned as potential replacements.

Of the domestic pitchers in the KBO, Choi has picked up the most wins at 13. After missing the entire 2017 season, Kim has made a successful return to the league, picking up eight wins and four losses with a 2.60 ERA.

“Our goal of winning a gold medal hasn’t changed,” Sun said. “We’ll come up with the strongest team. Despite the strong determination of a player to compete at the Games, if they have a problem with their physical condition, then change is a must.”

Before leaving for Indonesia on Aug. 23, the team will gather for the first call-up at Jamsil Baseball Stadium in southern Seoul on Aug. 18.

BY LEE HYEONG-SEOK AND KANG YOO-RIM [kang.yoorim@joongang.co.kr]