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Aoki & Lim: The best of enemies

by Jim Allen (Feb 5, 2009)

When hearing that his club teammate was gunning for him in the World Baseball Classic, Japan's Norichika Aoki said it was something to look forward to.

"It's no problem for me. He can be out to shut me down, but he'll have the other guys to deal with," Aoki said Friday, regarding a comment by Tokyo Yakult Swallows teammate Lim Chang Yong, who's here with South Korea for the WBC's Tokyo Round.

"To be honest, we kept to ourselves in spring training. Right now, we're opponents. After the tournament, we'll be teammates and then it will be business as usual."

Lim suffered a contusion in a February exhibition game against Chunichi, but returned to the mound on March 3. He has been burning to play for his national team ever since the Swallows denied his bid to play for South Korea's Olympic team.

Each player was named to his nation's team for the 2006 WBC, but Lim did not play and Aoki had just five at-bats.

Lim, however, has bounced back from arm trouble. He saved 33 games last year in his first season with Yakult and has been expected to be a big part of Korea manager Kim In Sik's plans.

Aoki, too, has taken on a more central role for Japan.

"I don't have any say about whether my status has changed," Aoki said. "But my goal remains exactly the same: to see that we win as a team."

Team play was also the mantra for South Korea's lone major leaguer, outfielder Choo Shin Soo.

Choo first came up to the majors with the Seattle Mariners, where he was a teammate of Japan outfielder Ichiro Suzuki.

"He's a real superstar," Choo said on Monday. "I'm really honored that anyone would refer to me as a competitor of his.

"But we're not playing against Ichiro. We just want to beat Japan."


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