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Team Korea Prepares Pitching Duel with Taiwan

Posted November. 29, 2006 06:44,   


“Sohn Min-han & Ryu Hyun-jin vs. Chiang Chien-ming & Kuo Hong-chih.”

The most intriguing duel ever between Korean and Taiwanese baseball is coming soon, and the best right-handed and left-handed pitchers from both countries will be the main stars.

Korea’s first baseball game in the Asian Games against Chinese Taipei scheduled on November 30 at Al-Rayyan Venue, located in Doha, Qatar, is, in practice, equivalent to a tournament’s championship game. This is because Japan remains a level below both countries as it is using amateurs.

Eager to claim superiority over Korean baseball, Taiwan has organized its best roster possible. Including eight players who are playing in overseas leagues such as the MLB or the Japanese League, Team Taiwan is composed of members, most of whom have had experience in the World Baseball Classic earlier this year.

Among the players, Yomiuri’s right-hander Chiang Chien-ming and L.A. Dodgers’ left-hander Kuo Hong-chih will certainly show up to pitch against Korea. Kuo, who has a fastball that exceeds 150km/h, had one win, five losses, and a 4.22 ERA. It is true that his condition somewhat fluctuates, but when it’s at the peak, his pitches are very hard to hit. Chiang, who has been noticed by his Yomiuri teammate Lee Seung-yeop as “a player that deserves attention,” had a decent record this season with three wins, two losses, and a 1.81 ERA.

After holding a training session on November 27, Team Korea manager Kim Jae-park said, “I think we have the upper hand in both hitting and defense. But Taiwan is better in pitching as they have players from the Major Leagues and the Japanese league.”

Assuming that Korea can only score a moderate number of runs, the team’s fate depends on how well the pitchers can counterbalance the Taiwanese. Accordingly, Kim plans to use both the right-hander Sohn Min-han (Lotte), whose pitching is the most vibrant in the team, and left-hander Ryu Hyun-jin (Hanwha) for this game. The only decision left for Kim is who should start.

Both of them boast pitching skills formidable enough to compete in overseas leagues. “If there is one pitcher who can be prominent in the Japanese league, it would be Son Min-han,” said Kim In-sik, former Team Korea manager who led its quest to the semifinals in the WBC. Although Sohn’s velocity is not that outstanding, his control and overall game management skills more than compensate for it.

Ryu Hyun-jin, the rookie who wore the triple crown as the league leader in wins, strikeouts, and ERA, is second to none in Korea in terms of pitching skills for the time being.