DOU LIOU CITY, Taiwan (Yonhap News) ― Cuba and Taiwan, seen as South Korea’s two rivals at the upcoming World Baseball Classic, don’t appear to be as strong as scouts had earlier feared, a former South Korean national team manager said Wednesday.
Kim In-sik, who managed South Korea at the first two WBCs in 2006 and 2009, said he has watched Taiwan and Cuba once each in practice games.
Kim, currently a technical director for the Korea Baseball Organization, admitted his sample size was small, but said he wasn’t impressed with the two countries nonetheless.
Kim In-sik, former national team manager (Yonhap News)
South Korea is paired with Taiwan in Pool B in the opening round, which will commence on March 2. Also in the same pairing are Australia and the Netherlands. South Korea and Taiwan are favored to come out of the group and advance to the second round.
Cuba, a perennial baseball power, is competing in Pool A, along with Japan, China and Brazil. Japan and Cuba are likely to join South Korea and Taiwan in the second round to vie for spots in the semifinals.
South Korea is trying to win its first WBC, after reaching the semis in 2006 and finishing second to Japan in 2009.
Cuba was the runner-up at the 2006 WBC but was eliminated in the second round in 2009. Taiwan was knocked out in the first round of both tournaments.
Kim noted that Cuba is a team in transition, though veterans from the first two WBCs still form the core. Outfielder Frederich Cepeda, who tied for the lead in hits at the 2009 tournament with 12, is back for Cuba, and he is one key player to watch, Kim said.
When Cuba faced Taiwan in a practice game on Monday, Kim said he watched eight Cuban pitchers.
“I think the days of Cuban pitchers routinely reaching 150 kilometers per hour are gone,” Kim said. “They were hitting just over 140 kilometers per hour. Their left-handers were surprisingly weak. They all seemed to have the same style of pitching, and they’re really nothing to worry about.”