Ex-big league slugger joins nat’l team camp for WBC

URUMA, Japan-- The man they call "Big Boy" has landed.

Lee Dae-ho, former Seattle Mariners' first baseman, joined the South Korean camp here in Japan Friday, ahead of the World Baseball Classic (WBC). Lee, who recently rejoined his former Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) club Lotte Giants, had been training with the Giants in Arizona.

Lee spent the 2016 season with the Mariners and batted .253 with 14 homers and 49 RBIs in 104 games as a part-time player. Then, during the offseason Lee became the highest-paid player in the KBO, thanks to a four-year, 15 billion won (US$13.1 million) contract with the Giants.

The Giants are hoping to make their first postseason since 2012 with Lee back in tow, but the hulking slugger will first try to lead South Korea to the promised land at the WBC starting on March 6.

At 34, Lee is one of the oldest players on the 28-man squad. After reporting to the camp here, the 2010 KBO MVP said it was "a great honor" to be chosen for the national team at his age.

"I do feel the pressure to deliver," Lee admitted. "As I've gotten older, the weight of responsibility has grown. And since we'll be hosting the first round games, we have to play really well."

South Korea will face Israel, the Netherlands and Chinese Taipei in Pool A at Gocheok Sky Dome in Seoul. The top two nations, after a round-robin play, will advance to the second round in Tokyo.

And Lee, who has hit .309 with 225 homers and 809 RBIs in 1,150 KBO games so far, will indeed have to carry the team's offense on his broad back.

On paper, this year's WBC team may just be South Korea's weakest ever at the competition. Only one major league player, St. Louis Cardinals' closer Oh Seung-hwan, has made the team. Others, such as Texas Rangers' outfielder Choo Shin-soo and Baltimore Orioles' outfielder Kim Hyun-soo, were dropped from the provisional roster when their clubs balked at releasing them for the occasion.

Ryu Hyun-jin, left-hander for the Los Angeles Dodgers, and Park Byung-ho, designated hitter for the Minnesota Twins last season, were never considered because of their injuries.

Lee said he'll try to find his groove quickly. He has been taking batting practices but has yet to face live pitching.

With South Korea scheduled to play two Japanese clubs, the Yomiuri Giants and the Yokohama DeNA BayStars, Lee said he'd like to get at least a couple of at-bats against actual pitchers.

"The national baseball team has always caused concern among people," Lee added. "But we'll try to change that."

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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