Notes: Taipei hoping Wang will pitch
Chinese Taipei includes Yankees hurler on 30-man roster
By Stephen Ellsesser / Special to MLB.com
Although Yankees owner George Steinbrenner has publicly expressed concern about the WBC and Wang reportedly stated he will not pitch for Taipei within the last week, Chinese Taipei's 30-man WBC roster includes Wang.
Wang was a surprise for the Yankees last season, finishing 8-5 with a 4.02 ERA in 17 starts after earning a callup from Triple-A Columbus. Easily the best pitcher in Taiwan, Wang likely would start in the WBC opener, when Taipei plays Korea on March 3 at Tokyo Dome.
The Chinese Professional Baseball League -- Taiwan's league, which is independent from mainland China -- elected its fifth commissioner this week, naming Dr. Shou-Po Chao the successor to Harvey Tang, who died in late 2004. Regardless of whether Taipei has Wang to go against the Koreans or not, Chao is eager to lead the CPBL into the WBC.
"We are hoping that everyone on the Chinese Taipei team can play their best, for not only the fans in Taiwan but for themselves as well," he said.
According to reports, Wang, when asked earlier this week whether he would pitch in the WBC, replied, "I think, no."
One big happy family?: The Japanese media have reported there has been some backbiting among Japan's WBC pitchers because Chiba Lotte Marines starter Shunsuke Watanabe has turned into something of a media darling in the weeks leading up to the WBC. Watanabe has seen an increase in status (and salary, as his pay more than doubled to ¥140 million plus incentives) in the offseason following Lotte's Japan and Asia series championships, but some think it is taking things a bit far to call him Japan's ace for the WBC.
Different players have sounded off, some in more lighthearted fashion than others. Yomiuri Giants pitcher Koji Uehara, for example, was photographed demonstrating Watanabe's submarine pitching style. The biggest complainer? None other than Naoyuki Shimizu, who went 10-11 last season with a 3.83 ERA, also with the Marines.
"I don't know why people are looking at Shunsuke as the No. 1," Shimizu said in Nikkan Sports. "[Koji] Uehara or Dai-chan [Daisuke Matsuzaka] are the aces."
Heartbreak Hou-Tel: China has had a tough time keeping players healthy for its top-shelf international competition. At November's Asia Series, China played without center fielder Lingfeng Sun, touted as the best player in China, because of shoulder surgery and several pitchers who were all afflicted with blisters.
Stepping up as China's dynamic offensive player in the series was shortstop Fenglian Hou, racking up multiple hits in two of three games. Sun is healthy and ready for the WBC, but Hou had surgery in the offseason that will keep him out of the WBC.
"Right now, he is not going to be available because he had surgery on his hand," China manager Jim Lefevbre said. "The kid is going to play a major role when we get to the Olympics, but we can't have him in there now."
His mind is elsewhere: Korean coach Dong-Yol Sun will make another return trip to Japan, but unlike when he led the Samsung Lions into the Asia Series last year, Sun has other things on his mind heading into the WBC.
Late last week, Sun's father died, forcing Sun to be called away from working with his team. Korean manager In-Sik Kim said that Sun would still be on his staff for the WBC. Sun is arguably one of the most revered players in Korean history, as he compiled an amazing 146-40 record and a 1.36 ERA while adding 132 saves, winning three KBO MVP awards and leading the Haitai Tigers to six championships in 11 seasons.
Sun also pitched for the Chunichi Dragons in Japan, leading Nagoya's finest to the Central League pennant in 1999. The 2005 season was Sun's managerial debut, and he took Samsung all the way to the championship. He is hopeful baseball will help him overcome his recent tragedy, and he remains focused on the international side of baseball emphasized by the Asia Series and WBC.
"I learned a lot in Japan," Sun said. "There are things [Korea] can learn from Japan, and there are good things in our baseball as well."
Stephen Ellsesser is a reporter for The Japan Times and a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.