OSAKA, Japan, South Korean manager Lee Kang-chul may be forced to break up his major league double play combo for the World Baseball Classic (WBC), if his regular third baseman can’t go due to health issues.
Lee is hoping he won’t have to resort to that plan B.
Choi Jeong, veteran slugger and South Korea’s only natural third baseman, has been dealing with an unspecified illness the past couple of days. He sat out South Korea’s scrimmage Friday in Seoul but was a full participant in the team’s first practice in Osaka on Sunday afternoon, the eve of an exhibition game against the Orix Buffaloes at Kyocera Dome Osaka.
After a 90-minute session, Lee said Choi was doing much better but he won’t force the third baseman into action for exhibitions unless he was 100 percent.
South Korea’s first WBC game is Thursday against Australia at Tokyo Dome.
“He’s doing fine, but the really important game comes on Thursday,” Lee said. “If Choi is doing okay tomorrow, he will play. If not, we just want to make sure he’s ready for Thursday.”
In the current setup, Kim Ha-seong of the San Diego Padres and Tommy Edman of the St. Louis Cardinals, South Korea’s only two major leaguers, will form a formidable middle infield, one of the best defensive duos in the tournament. Edman won the National League Gold Glove at second base in 2021, and Kim was a finalist at shortstop last year.
But if Choi can’t go, Lee said he will slide Kim to third base, where he has some experience in both the majors and in the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO). Oh Ji-hwan, one of the top defensive shortstops in the KBO, will then step up to take Kim’s spot.
“It’s not going to be easy to make last-minute changes for fielders,” Lee said. “Hopefully, Choi Jeong will be good to go in the tournament.”
After playing the Buffaloes on Monday, South Korea will take on another Japanese club, Hanshin Tigers, on Tuesday. Lee said he will use those occasions to simulate tournament situations.
Lee said he hasn’t been able to run as many plays as he would have liked in earlier scrimmages because they were too lopsided in South Korea’s favor.
“We expect to face some quality pitching for a change,” Lee added. “We will see how our hitters adjust to different types of pitches.”
Source: Yonhap News Agency