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Korea facing an unfamiliar foe

Semifinal play begins against Venezuela on Saturday

"Even though we may fall off in terms of caliber of players, we will play hard until the last out," said Korea's manager, In-Sik Kim.  (AP)

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LOS ANGELES -- If familiarity breeds contempt, then unfamiliarity must breed respect.

And that's certainly true for the Korean baseball team, which is largely unfamiliar with its Venezuelan counterpart because it has never faced the South American team's roster, which features 21 Major Leaguers.

Korea last played Venezuela in the 2007 World Cup and won, 9-2, but Venezuela's roster was made up of amateurs.

Luckily for Korea, however, many of the players and manager In-Sik Kim watch Major League Baseball and have seen such Venezuelan stars as Magglio Ordonez, Bobby Abreu and Miguel Cabrera on television. And Kim had nothing but positive things to say about Venezuela.

"Many of them are Major Leaguers, and they have important positions in the Major Leagues," Kim said. "From April to October, every day we watch the Major League teams playing, so we have seen them many times. We know which player is what kind of specialty and so on, but we don't know everyone in detail."

Korea will get a chance to see those players in person when the two teams meet in the semifinals of the World Baseball Classic on Saturday at 6 p.m. PT at Dodger Stadium.

As the Korean team surely knows, watching a team on television and actually playing that team are two completely different stories. Kim admitted that he didn't have much of a scouting report on Venezuelan starter Carlos Silva, who pitches for the Mariners and is 1-0 with a 0.82 ERA in the tournament.

"I've only seen Carlos Silva on television a couple of times, and I do not know much more exactly," he said.

But Kim knows plenty about his own starter, right-hander Suk-Min Yoon, who is 1-0 and has yet to allow a run in 9 2/3 innings in the Classic. Yoon finished fifth in the MVP voting last season in the Korean Baseball Organization after going 14-5 with a 2.33 ERA for the Kia Tigers.

Yoon, however, has to face a Venezuelan lineup that is batting .309 as a team, with 43 runs scored and 11 home runs in seven games.

But as Kim said, the Koreans are not going to go down easy.

"Venezuela has many players that play in the Major Leagues," Kim said. "However, I will say that even though we may fall off in terms of caliber of players, we will play hard until the last out."

Rhett Bollinger is an associate reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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