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KBO rule revamp gives teams more options in the injury-stricken dog days of summer

LG Twins' Austin Dean, left, celebrates after hitting a double with Kiwoom Heroes shortstop Addison Russell to his right during a game at Gocheok Sky Dome in western Seoul in July 2023. [YONHAP]

In baseball, where games are spoken of in hours rather than minutes, speed comes in bursts.
There are often long breaks before a player’s bat finally makes contact with the ball. Then it does, and the crowd roars as the hitter makes a mad dash to cover as many bases as he can before the ball gets back around and the other team tags him out. But the fastest part of the sport is the speed of the ball. Average pitches in the KBO reach more than 150 kilometers per hour (90 miles per hour) — faster than a cheetah’s maximum of 130 kilometers per hour and three times as fast as the express train from Gimpo Airport to Gangnam. And the sport’s repetitive nature, where the familiar pitch, hit, three strikes, you’re out pattern repeats for nine innings over a single game, exposes players to muscle overuse and places particular strain on pitchers who repeat the same motion hundreds of times and emphatically more during practice.
 
That’s exacerbated among the KBO’s foreign player pool, typically in which every two in three is a pitcher and generally a starter at that. But with strict restrictions on the number of foreign players allowed on a team’s lineup, injuries often become liabilities. Long breaks can hinder a team’s investment in foreign players, who are paid hundreds of thousands more than many of their teammates.  Last fall, with weeks of the postseason still to go, the KBO announced it would introduce an “alternative foreign player recruitment system” for teams to more easily replace injured foreign players beginning with the 2024 season .According to the new rule, an injured foreign player with an expected recovery time of more than six weeks can register as an “alternative foreign player,” remaining on the roster while a new recruit temporarily takes his place.
 
Alternative foreign players will be eligible to earn up to $100,000 per month, the KBO said.After six weeks, the injured player can retake his spot on the roster, sending his replacement home. Or, teams can choose to keep the new guy on their roster — giving one of their original three foreign players the boot, which would use up one of the season’s allotted roster changes. It’s essentially a loophole to existing rules. Teams are allowed a maximum of three foreign players on their lineup, and they can only change players — release one and acquire another — twice per season. The KBO said the system would address the “power imbalance” created by a foreign player’s long-term injury without counting it as one of the team’s allotted replacements that could otherwise be used toward bringing in a different player for one with a lackluster season. It’s a rule almost certain to affect the majority of KBO teams after the season kicks off in March. Foreign player lineups at 스포츠토토존 the end of a KBO season rarely look like what teams start with during spring training.

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