(ATTN: ADDS details in para 19)
By Yoo Jee-ho
SEOUL, Jan. 4 (Yonhap) -- The 2021 National League Gold Glove winner Tommy Edman will represent South Korea, the country of his mother's birth, at the upcoming World Baseball Classic (WBC).
Lee Kang-chul, the national team manager, announced his 30-man roster for the March 8-21 tournament at the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) headquarters in Seoul on Wednesday, following a meeting with his technical staff.
Lee will carry 15 pitchers, two catchers, eight infielders and five outfielders.
Edman will be the first half-Korean to play for South Korea at the WBC. He was born in Michigan to an American father and a Korean mother. The WBC, unlike the Olympics, has a loose set of regulations allowing players to represent countries of their parents' birth, even if they themselves aren't citizens there.
He is one of three active major leaguers on the squad, alongside San Diego Padres infielder Kim Ha-seong and Pittsburgh Pirates infielder Choi Ji-man.
Former major leaguers on the team are: SSG Landers pitcher Kim Kwang-hyun, formerly of the Cardinals; Kia Tigers pitcher Yang Hyeon-jong, a one-time Texas Ranger; LG Twins outfielder Kim Hyun-soo, who previously played for the Baltimore Orioles and the Philadelphia Phillies; and KT Wiz infielder Park Byung-ho, a former Minnesota Twin.
At the press conference discussing his squad, Lee said he was especially sold on Edman's defensive versatility. In addition to second base, Edman can also play shortstop, third base and even outfield positions.
"His main position is second base and that's where we're going to use him mostly," Lee said. "As a Gold Glove winner, we felt Edman would make a great double play duo with Kim Ha-seong."
Kim was a finalist for the National League Gold Glove at shortstop last year and can also play second base and third base.
National team technical director Cho Bum-hyun said Edman had already committed to playing for South Korea in a meeting with KBO officials last fall.
"We tried to put together a team that could be competitive and that could also usher in a new generation of players," Cho added. "In talking to major leaguers, we got the impression that they were really eager to do their country proud. I believe KBO players feel the same way."
Teams can make changes to their 30-man rosters before the Feb. 7 deadline for medical reasons. South Korea may be forced to replace Choi, who is recovering from offseason elbow operation.
He had surgery on Nov. 23 and Choi's agency here said then that the player would need eight to 12 weeks of rehab.
Choi is scheduled to travel back to the United States on Sunday. Cho said Choi will be in touch with the national team staff after undergoing a physical with the Pirates.
Two major leaguers who had been on the 50-player Federation Interest List did not make the final team: Boston Red Sox outfielder Rob Refsnyder, who was born in South Korea but was adopted by an American family as a baby, and utility man Park Hoy-jun, who played for the Pirates last year but has been traded twice and designated for assignment three times this offseason.
Cho said Refsnyder won't be available for "personal reasons," while uncertainty surrounding Park, who remains without a team, forced the technical staff to go with other options in the KBO.
Among KBO players, the reigning regular season MVP Lee Jung-hoo was a no-brainer choice as one of five outfielders. Perennial MVP candidate Yang Eui-ji will be the starting catcher.
For the pitching staff, Kim Kwang-hyun and Yang Hyeon-jong, both 34 years old with plenty of international experience, will be asked to be the leaders on and off the mound. They are also among five left-handers for South Korea.
Conspicuous by his absence was Kiwoom Heroes right-hander An Woo-jin, who led the KBO last year with a 2.11 ERA and 224 strikeouts. The 23-year-old right-hander was left off due to his past bullying history, dating back to his high school days.
There are four groups of five countries in the tournament. South Korea is in Pool B with Japan, Australia, China and the Czech Republic. The top two teams from each group will reach the quarterfinals.
Pool B teams will play all of their preliminary games and quarterfinal games at Tokyo Dome in the Japanese capital. The semifinals and the final will take place at LoanDepot Park in Miami, home of the Miami Marlins.
South Korea finished third at the inaugural WBC in 2006 and was the runner-up to Japan in the next edition in 2009. The country hasn't come close to matching that success since, having crashed out of the first round in both 2013 and 2017.
Lee said the only way for South Korean baseball is to go up, and he will keep a positive mindset in the leadup to the competition. The manager added that his players must have been inspired by the national football team's run to the round of 16 at the FIFA World Cup last month.
"I felt pretty excited watching the World Cup, and I am sure our players had a lot going through their mind watching the national football team," Lee said. "I'd rather not lay out specific goals at this moment, but I'd just like to play games outside Japan."
The following is the list of players on the 30-man South Korea roster for the 2023 World Baseball Classic, with their teams in parentheses.
Pitchers: Go Woo-suk (LG Twins), Jung Woo-young (LG Twins), Ko Young-pyo (KT Wiz), So Hyeong-jun (KT Wiz), Lee Yong-chan (NC Dinos), Won Tae-in (Samsung Lions), Kim Won-jung (Lotte Giants), Park Se-woong (Lotte Giants), Gwak Been (Doosan Bears), Jeong Cheol-won (Doosan Bears), Kim Kwang-hyun (SSG Landers), Kim Yun-sik (LG Twins), Yang Hyeon-jong (Kia Tigers), Lee Eui-lee (Kia Tigers), Koo Chang-mo (NC Dinos)
Catchers: Lee Ji-young (Kiwoom Heroes), Yang Eui-ji (Doosan Bears)
Infielders: Choi Jeong (SSG Landers), Kim Hye-seong (Kiwoom Heroes), Oh Ji-hwan (LG Twins), Park Byung-ho (KT Wiz), Kang Baek-ho (KT Wiz), Kim Ha-seong (San Diego Padres), Tommy Edman (St. Louis Cardinals), Choi Ji-man (Pittsburgh Pirates)
Outfielders: Lee Jung-hoo (Kiwoom Heroes), Kim Hyun-soo (LG Twins), Park Hae-min (LG Twins), Na Sung-bum (Kia Tigers), Park Kun-woo (NC Dinos)