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Foreign players in S. Korean baseball set to rejoin teams this week

(Samsung Lions)
(Samsung Lions)

Just a few weeks ago, when Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) clubs were wrapping up their spring training in places like the United States, Japan and Taiwan, their foreign players, most of them Americans, were rushing to return to their home country. South Korea was struggling to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus, while the US appeared to be safe.

But the tables have since turned, and those players are now on their way to South Korea.

The COVID-19 outbreak forced the KBO to cancel its preseason and delay the start of the regular season, which would have come this Saturday. Thinking that import players would be safer back home, many KBO teams sent them back to the US and, in case of one player, Mexico. The clubs planned to bring them back two weeks prior to the new start date for the season.

The KBO has yet to settle on that date, but teams have been scrambling to get their import players here. While South Korea is still locked in a protracted battle with the virus, it has seen its daily cases fall below triple digits in three of the past five days. The US has seen its cases increase dramatically in recent days. And the US State Department has also raised its travel advisory to its highest level, urging Americans not to travel abroad and warning they may be forced to remain outside the US indefinitely if they do make trips.

Under new quarantine measures for all international arrivals, the KBO's foreign players must undergo COVID-19 tests and will only be allowed to join their teams if they test negative.

For the LG Twins, American pitcher Tyler Wilson arrived in South Korea on Sunday night, and Mexican infielder Roberto Ramos is due back here Monday. Another American pitcher, Casey Kelly, will join them Wednesday.

The KT Wiz will welcome back Odrisamer Despaigne and Mel Rojas Jr. on Monday. A Venezuelan-born pitcher William Cuevas was in the process of acquiring his US green card and will report to the Wiz as soon as it's taken care of.

The three players had been training together in Florida.

The Samsung Lions will have pitchers Ben Lively and David Buchanan, and infielder Tyler Saladino back Tuesday.

For the Kiwoom Heroes, utility man Tyler Motter, and pitchers Jake Brigham and Eric Jokisch will return Friday.

The Hanwha Eagles said outfielder Jared Hoying and pitcher Chad Bell will arrive back from the US on Wednesday. Another pitcher, Warwick Saupold, will be coming in from Australia, via Thailand, on Thursday.

Teams like the Doosan Bears, Kia Tigers and Lotte Giants broke camp with all of their foreign players in the fold.

Due to COVID-19 concerns, teams aren't allowed to play each other. They've been playing intrasquad scrimmages at their home parks instead. (Yonhap)