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Expansion KT Wiz struggle out of gate in first KBO preseason

2015/03/09 09:41

SEOUL, March 9 (Yonhap) -- No one probably ever told the KT Wiz that it was going to be easy to get through their inaugural preseason in the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) this month. Then again, the expansion franchise likely didn't expect things would be this difficult, either.

The Suwon-based Wiz have joined the nation's top baseball league as the 10th club this year, after competing in the second-tier Futures League in 2014. They got their first taste of KBO action over the weekend with two preseason games against the Nexen Heroes in Seoul, and they left the nation's capital with a harsh realization that they have plenty of work to do.

The Wiz lost both games, and the Heroes outscored them 15-4 in those two, taking the first game on Saturday 5-0 and then the next game the following day 10-4.

In the first game, former big league right-hander Phil Irwin had an encouraging start for the Wiz, holding the Heroes to three hits in four shutout innings while striking out seven.

Shim Jae-min, who relieved Irwin to start the fifth, was tagged for five runs, four of them earned, and the offense mustered only three hits against five Nexen pitchers.

On Sunday, Andy Sisco, another foreign pitcher in the Wiz's rotation, wasn't as effective as Irwin. The left-hander gave up an opposite-field, two-run shot to Park Byung-ho, who'd led the KBO in homers in each of the past three years, and was charged with five runs in four innings.

The Wiz managed one hit in three innings against Nexen starter Andy Van Hekken before finally scoring their first KBO run in the fourth inning.

Speedster Lee Dae-hyung, who once swiped 60 or more bases in three consecutive seasons, beat out an infield single to start the inning. He then stole second and advanced to third on an errant throw by catcher Kim Jae-hyun.

Lee Ji-chan had another infield single, bringing home Lee Dae-hyung.

The way they eked out their first run probably offered a glimpse into how the Wiz, who lack a viable slugger in their lineup, will be seeking to manufacture runs every chance they get.

Andy Sisco of the KT Wiz delivers a pitch in a KBO preseason game against the Nexen Heroes in Seoul on March 8, 2015. (Yonhap file photo) Andy Sisco of the KT Wiz delivers a pitch in a KBO preseason game against the Nexen Heroes in Seoul on March 8, 2015. (Yonhap file photo)

They added another run in the fifth and two more in the eighth, though the game was well out of reach by then.

During the offseason, the Wiz patched up a team with free agents, cast-offs left unprotected by their original teams in the expansion draft and four players from overseas. They can carry four foreign players on their roster, one more than the rest of the league, for their first two seasons, a special arrangement designed to help the expansion franchise stay competitive.

Cho Bum-hyun, the Wiz's manager, has already expressed concerns about the team's lack of depth.

"There is a large discrepancy in talent level between our regulars and reserves, and that's my biggest worry," Cho said before Saturday's game. "I'd really like to see young and inexperienced players get into action and grow."

   Though the Wiz won't be expected to take the KBO by storm in their first season, Cho said his players won't just roll over.

"For the sake of our future, we must develop promising players, but at the same time, we still have to win games," Cho added. "I've told our guys to keep their heads high. We may be underdogs, but that doesn't mean we should be expecting sympathy from our opponents. We have to play hard and take the challenge head on."

   jeeho@yna.co.kr

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