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Season of uncertainty ...looms in KBO

As the top South Korean professional baseball league prepares for the 2014 season, its nine clubs are bracing themselves for what promises to be a season full of changes and uncertainty.

The Korea Baseball Organization will begin its 33rd season on Saturday with eight of the nine teams in action. The Samsung Lions, as the three-time defending champions, will open their season at home against the Kia Tigers in Daegu, about 300 kilometers southeast of Seoul.

Teams will each play 128 games.

The Lions will try to become only the second KBO team ever to win four championships in a row. The 1986-1989 Tigers, who were then owned by confectionery company Haitai, remain the only club to accomplish that feat.

They will be in for a tougher fight than in previous championship seasons, after their closer Oh Seung-hwan, the career saves leader in the KBO with 277, bolted for Japan’s Hanshin Tigers as a free agent, and their leadoff man, Bae Young-seob, began his mandatory military service after last season.

Ryu Joong-il, manager of the Lions, said Monday the competition will be wide open in the new season and his club will have to start anew.

“For now, we’ll forget about having won the past three championships,” Ryu told reporters at the KBO media day event in Seoul.

“We will come to the starting blocks with a fresh mindset.”

While the Lions have their problems, there appears to be no clear-cut favorite to dethrone the champs.

For instance, the Doosan Bears, the runners-up last year, lost some key players via free agency and also have a new manager in place, their former minor league manager, Song Il-soo.

The Bears’ captain Hong Sung-heun said he and his teammates will rally around their first-year manager.

“We lost our chance to win the championship last year because of one game,” said Hong, whose Bears blew a 3-1 series lead in the final and lost in seven games.

“We will put our faith in our manager and play hard as one.” (Yonhap)
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Korea Herald daum