Since my previews went up, there have been some changes to the rosters:
- First off, two members of the South Korean team were removed from the roster as part of a punishment for breaking social distancing. Those players, 2B Min-Woo Park and P Hyun-hee Han, have also been suspended the rest of the KBO season. Their replacements are rookie left-handed reliever Jin Uk Kim and former MLBer Seunghwan Oh, arguably the best reliever in Korea’s history. Jin-Uk is a bit of an odd choice, however, as his stats haven’t been very good this year. Also of note is that they did not add a new 2B to replace Park. Korea is facing other COVID-19 related issues: the first of their warm-up games, which would have been against a team of under-24 KBO All-Stars, has been called off due to pandemic restrictions.
- Two members of Team Mexico have tested positive for COVID-19 and will not be making the trip. Hector Velazquez and Sammy Solis tested positive on Sunday before the team was set to leave for Tokyo, and now the team is in quarantine while they await further tests. It isn’t clear if Solis and Velazquez are being re-tested in case of a false positive and may end up making the trip, and I haven’t found anything yet to suggest who (if anyone) will replace them. The bigger question is what might happen should a large portion of the team have COVID. Would they forfeit all their games? Would they be allowed to quickly add a bunch of new players? These are some of the issues facing all the sports in this pandemic Olympics.
- Team USA has been playing exhibition games against the USA National Collegiate Team to prepare for Tokyo. While obviously they are college kids, they are hardly slouches and most of them will likely go on to have professional careers. The Olympians won the 7-inning Game 1 8-3 on Sunday behind good days at the plate by Eddy Alvarez (3-4, HR, 2 RBI, SB) and Patrick Kivlehan (2-3, 2B, HR, 3 RBI). Scott Kazmir had 5 IP giving up 3 hits (one a home run to the University of Arizona’s Jacob Berry) and 2 ER while striking out 9. Game 2 was much closer as a pitcher’s duel took place, with Team USA edging the college team 1-0 thanks to a 6th-inning RBI by Alvarez. The teams are set to finish their exhibition series today at 1 p.m.
- Team Israel, meanwhile, has been barnstorming through the East Coast. They have gone 6-2 against an eclectic bunch of amateur teams ranging from the FDNY baseball team to all-stars from the Cal Ripken College League. They have one more warmup game remaining.
I’ll have more on Olympic baseball as the start of that tournament nears.