Hideki Kuriyama, Japan's manager for the 2023 World Baseball Classic, expects a tough contest against long-time rival South Korea.
"We shouldn't compare them to their clubs in the past, but rather think of them as a completely new team," Kuriyama said Wednesday at Kansai International Airport, following his trip to Seoul to watch two postseason games between the LG Twins and Kiwoom Heroes on Monday and Tuesday.
Japan will face South Korea in five-team round-robin Pool B at Tokyo Dome, between March 9 and 13.
South Korea has developed many new young players, leading to a generational transition for a nation with a strong track record in international baseball, particularly against Japan in the WBC and Premier 12.
Kuriyama paid careful attention to relief pitchers such as the Twins' Go Woo Suk, who played at last year's Tokyo Olympics.
"In this kind of short competition, they can bring in one short reliever after another, and that's scary," Kuriyama said. "I was able to see the exceptional stuff they have, but also how we might beat them."