Updated March. 29, 2014 04:21
Flowers blooming signal the advent of baseball season. Leaving behind expectations and concern displayed at exhibition games that were played for a limited time, the official games of the 2014 Korean baseball season will kick off. Four games will take place as openers of this season at 2 p.m. on Saturday, including SamsungKia (Daegu Stadium), Doosan-LG (Jamsil Stadium in Seoul), SK-Nexen (Munhak Stadium in Incheon), and Lotte-Hanwha (Sajik Stadium in Busan). Based on their performances last season, teams ranking first against eighth, second against third, sixth against fourth, and fifth against ninth will lock horns, respectively. Joining its second season after its debut in the main league, the NC Dinosaurs will play at an opening game at Champions Field, Kias brand new ballpark, on Tuesday.
All four opening games will feature showdowns between Korean and foreign pitchers. Yoon Seong-hwan of Samsung and Dennis Houlton of Kia will face off at Daegu Stadium. Last year, Yoon had 13 wins and eight losses with an earned run average of 3.27, contributing to Samsungs overall win for three consecutive seasons. In contrast, Houlton had 63 wins in the Japanese pro baseball, which gave him the title of the pitcher with most wins. At three exhibition games this year, the U.S.-born pitcher posted an earned run average of 2.25. At Jamsil Stadium, Kim Sun-woo of LG will serve as the starting pitcher to face off Doosan, his previous affiliation. His counterpart is Dustin Nippert, Doosans ace who was Kims teammate up until recently. Kim Sun-woo (16 wins) and Nippert (15 wins) gave Doosan a combined 31 wins in the 2011 season.
Attention is also focused on Kim Kwang-hyun of SK, who was dubbed "indigenous ace along with Ryu Hyun-jin. While suffering from shoulder injury since the 2011 season, Kim displayed glimmers of hope for revival by garnering 10 wins (9 losses) last year. Kim Kwang-hyun will start the season opener for the first time in his career, and will face off Nexens lefthander Andy Van Hekken. At Sajik Stadium, Song Seung-jun of Lotte will have a showdown with new expat pitcher Caleb Clay of Hanwha. At its 4th season opener with Hanwha, Lotte will deploy Song Seung-jun as its starter for three consecutive years.