All eyes on new rules, returning ace as KBO preseason begins

Ryu Hyun-jin of the Hanwha Eagles walks to the mound during an intrasquad game at Hanwha Life Eagles Park in Daejeon, March 7. Yonhap

With all 10 clubs back home after weeks of spring training overseas, the preseason in the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) is scheduled to begin Saturday.The exhibition campaign is set to wrap up on March 19, four days before the start of the regular season. Teams will have one day off next Wednesday.Most games will start at 1 p.m., and teams can ask the league to move games to 6 p.m. to help their players adjust to playing under the lights.There will be no extra innings or doubleheaders. Rained out games will not be made up.The KBO return of Ryu Hyun-jin, the 2019 National League All-Star Game starter, has overshadowed other storylines in the leadup to the new season. Ryu rejoined the Hanwha Eagles on a massive eight-year, 17 billion-won ($12.8 million) contract last month, after 11 years in Major League Baseball (MLB). Ryu first pitched for the Eagles from 2006 to 2012 and was one of the KBO’s most dominant starters then.Opposing teams and fans alike will keep a close eye on whether Ryu, who will turn 37 later this month, will still be as effective in his second go-around.

Ryu will make his preseason debut Tuesday against the Kia Tigers and then make another appearance on March 17 against the Lotte Giants. Barring rainouts, Ryu will be lined up to start on Opening Day, March 23, against the defending Korean Series champions LG Twins.Teams will also have a chance to adjust to the new automated ball-strike system (ABS), which will be put in use for the first time this year.Colloquially called the robot umpire, the ABS uses tracking technology to determine balls and strikes, and then relays the call to the home plate umpire through an earpiece. With the ABS in place, the KBO said the strike zone will expand by 2 centimeters on either side of the home plate. This was to guard against a sudden increase in walks, the KBO said, following MLB’s decision to widen the zone by 2.5 centimeters on each side when its minor leagues adopted the ABS in 2022.The top of the ABS strike zone will be set at 56.35 percent of a hitter’s height, and the bottom is going to be at 27.64 percent.The pitch clock will make its preseason debut, too. It will be on a test run for the first half of the new regular season. The league will then decide whether to use the pitch clock on a full basis in the second half.

Pitchers must deliver a pitch within 18 seconds with the bases empty and 23 seconds with runners on. When MLB introduced the pitch clock in 2023, pitchers faced a 15-second limit with no one on and a 20-second limit with runners aboard.Players will have 30 seconds to resume play between batters, the same standard as MLB. The catcher must be in his box with nine seconds left on the clock, and the batter must be ready to hit with eight seconds to go. A violation will result in a ball for the pitcher or a strike for the hitter.In another new rule, the KBO will ban infield shifts. This means four infielders must have at least one foot in the infield dirt, with at least two infielders on either side of the second base.Bigger bases — up from 15 square inches to 18 square inches — could lead to more steals.Eight of the 10 teams are scheduled to play 10 games apiece. The Twins and the Kiwoom Heroes, however, will each play eight preseason games, because they are set to face MLB teams in special exhibition games later this month. The Heroes will face the Los Angeles Dodgers on March 17, and the Twins will play the San Diego Padres the following day. The Dodgers and the Padres will then open the 2024 MLB regular season with a two-game series scheduled for 토토사이트 March 20-21

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