TOKYO -- South Korea will start a hard-throwing right-hander against Japan to open an inaugural baseball tournament this week.
South Korean manager Sun Dong-yol on Wednesday announced Jang Hyun-sik as the starter against Japan in Thursday's opening game of the Asia Professional Baseball Championship at Tokyo Dome.
The event features professional players from South Korea, Japan and Chinese Taipei under 24 years of age -- born on or after Jan. 1, 1993 -- or those with less than three years of professional experience.
South Korea will open the tournament at 7 p.m. on Thursday against Japan. It will then face Chinese Taipei at 7 p.m. the following day. After Japan plays Chinese Taipei on Saturday, the top two nations from the round robin action will square off in the final at 6 p.m. on Sunday. All games will be at the Tokyo Dome.
In this file photo taken on Nov. 10, 2017, South Korean right-hander Jang Hyun-sik throws a pitch against the Nexen Heroes in an exhibition game for the national team at Gocheok Sky Dome in Seoul. (Yonhap)
Jang, 22, went 9-9 with a 5.29 ERA in 31 appearances for the NC Dinos in the Korea Baseball Organization this year. Jang struck out 120 in 134 1/3 innings.
He made a stronger impression during the postseason, tossing seven shutout innings in a no-decision against the Lotte Giants in the second round of the playoffs last month.
Jang will go up against Kazuki Yabuta, right-hander for Hiroshima Toyo Carp in the Nippon Professional Baseball. In his third season for Hiroshima, Yabuta went 15-3 in 38 appearances, posting a 2.58 ERA across 129 innings.
At a press conference, Sun said Jang is a promising young pitcher who didn't get rattled in the postseason.
"He has a high ceiling, and if he can pitch the way he's capable of, he should have a good game," Sun said. "We also wanted to keep Japan's running game in check, and Jang has a good slide step. And he's in great form now. Hopefully, he can go five to six innings."
Sun said he'd told his players to "play with confidence" at Tokyo Dome, which can be an intimidating place for young players. Only one player, right-hander Sim Chang-min, has played at the famed stadium.
"As long as our players shake off nerves and just play their game, we should have good results," Sun said. "We don't have much firepower on offense, but we're a speedy team. And these hitters can put the ball in play as well as any other national team in the past."
Japanese manager Atsunori Inaba said Yabuta throws a hard fastball that he hopes will work well against South Korean hitters.
Chinese Taipei manager Hong I-Chung announced left-hander Chen Kuan-Yu as the starter against South Korea on Friday. Chen pitches for NPB's Chiba Lotte Marines.
The 27-year-old pitched against South Korea at the 2017 World Baseball Classic in Seoul in March, and was touched for three runs in just 1 1/3 innings. (Yonhap)