SEOUL, Jan. 4 (Yonhap) -- Pittsburgh Pirates infielder Kang Jung-ho, facing indictment over charges of driving under the influence of alcohol, was dropped from the national team for this year's World Baseball Classic (WBC) on Wednesday.
Manager Kim In-sik made the decision after meeting with his coaches at the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) headquarters in Seoul. Kim had said in an earlier interview with Yonhap News Agency that he was "leaning toward" taking Kang off the 28-man roster because of his off-field problems.
Kang was arrested after fleeing the scene of a DUI accident in the nation's capital last month. Earlier Wednesday, Seoul police said they were seeking Kang's indictment.
Kang, a former KBO All-Star as a shortstop, has hit 36 home runs in his first two seasons with the Pirates while primarily playing at third base. He finished third in the National League Rookie of the Year voting in 2015, and bounced back from horrific leg injuries to belt 21 homers in just 103 games in 2016. He would have been South Korea's top option at either third base or shortstop and put in the heart of the order.
Taking Kang's place on the national team will be Kim Ha-seong, an All-Star shortstop for the KBO's Nexen Heroes. Kim enjoyed a 20-20 season in 2016, with career highs of 20 homers and 28 steals.
Gocheok Sky Dome in Seoul will host the first round games. The first game will be against Israel on March 6, followed by the Netherlands on March 7 and Chinese Taipei on March 9. All Korean games will start at 7 p.m.
The national team will open its training camp in Okinawa, Japan, on Feb. 12.
South Korea made it to the semifinals at the inaugural WBC in 2006 and finished runner-up to Japan in 2009, with Kim In-sik at the helm for both teams. The country, however, failed to make it out of the preliminary round in 2013.
Lee Kyung-sik firstname.lastname@example.org
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