Doosan aims to strengthen pitching rotationThe Doosan Bears have a big hole in their pitching staff as an early race for the 2013 Korea Baseball Organization title is turning into a two-way competition.
The Nexen Heroes have surged so much lately that their first-ever playoff appearance is almost taken for granted. With two straight victories against the Lotte Giants, including a 7-1 win on Sunday, the Heroes are a half-game ahead of defending champions, the Samsung Lions.
Five games behind in third place, the Bears will have to strengthen their pitching to erase the gap with their smaller-city rival, whom they will play later this week.
Doosan allowed 136 runs in 20 games in May, the most among the nine KBO teams. The bottom-dwelling Hanwha Eagles allowed 19 runs less than the Bears. The Bears’ average team ERA this month is 6.66.
“Only when the mound is stabilized, can we overcome a crisis that we are facing now,” Doosan manager Kim Jin-wook said. “We will be focused on the reconstruction of the pitching resources.”
The Bears return from a three-game break today with a three-game series against the Lotte Giants in Busan. Then, they will face off against the Heroes at Jamsil Stadium beginning Friday. The Heroes are 3-2 against the Bears this season.
One ray of hope for the Bears is the impending return of American pitcher Garrett Olsen, who is playing his first year in the KBO.
Olsen was left off the team after pitching only nine and two-thirds innings in three games due to a thigh injury sustained on April 12. But, he showed a clear sign of recovery, pitching a one-hitter over three innings in a minor-league game against the SK Wyverns on Saturday. The manager, Kim, said Olsen will be able to join the rotation this week, relieving the team’s dependence on its other starters, including Dustin Nippert (5-2), Kim Sun-woo (2-4) and No Kyung-eun (1-3).
It will be tough though because the Bears will face the Heroes’ strong lineup.
The Heroes are leading the league in home runs at 36, and slugging percentage, at .418. They beat the Hanwha Eagles 19-1 on May 15, setting a team record for most runs scored in a game. The Heroes found themselves atop the standings in May of last year, for the first time in its history, but its lead only lasted three days. They finished sixth last year.
Now managed by former third-base coach Yeom Kyung-yup, the Heroes appear to have nearly fixed their chronic problems such as a heavy dependence on a few players, weak defense and pitching.
“I think we can get better,” Yeom said.
By Moon Gwang-lip, Kim Yoo-jung [email@example.com]