Twins regain energy under new manager
But after Yang stabilized the team in the dugout, the Twins look like they are back in the same shape they were last season. Since Yang took over, the Twins have gone 28-22 and they were the biggest winning team in July with a record of 11-4 as of Saturday. They are only two and a half games behind the league’s fourth-placed Lotte Giants, raising hope for the postseason.
The Twins were a good hitting team last season and were expected to continue showing off their firepower after U.S. import third baseman Josh Bell led the team with a league-best eight homers in April. But Bell has struggled since then, so the Twins replaced him with Brad Snyder. There were initially questions over Snyder’s performance as he seemed to have problems dealing with KBO pitchers’ fastballs, but he started getting better, particularly after he hit his three-run KBO debut home run against the Kia Tigers on July 23. He then hit a two-run RBI double the following game and hit another two-run double against the Lotte Giants on Saturday, giving him nine RBIs in the past nine games.
Compared with Bell, who only hit .225 in scoring positions, Snyder has hit .417, becoming the team’s best clutch hitter, which also protects hitters placed in front and behind him such as Lee Jin-young, Lee Byung-kyu and Park Yong-taik.
“It has been only a month, but Snyder has been doing very well considering what we asked for,” Yang said. “We always want a foreign hitter to be someone who can scare the opposing pitcher in the middle of the lineup, which Snyder has done so far.”
Yang also stabilized the team’s overall pitching, and one of the pitchers who has enjoyed having the new manager around is Cory Riordan. The 27-year-old right-hander was on the Twins’ blacklist of foreign players they wanted to replace as he went 1-5 with an ERA of 5.11 until mid-May. But after Yang made some adjustments in his pitching mechanics, he became a completely different pitcher, going 5-2 since then. He was 6-7 with an ERA of 4.09 as of Saturday. His ERA in June was 2.59.
“He had a bad habit in his windup posture,” Yang said. “We worked together to fix that problem, and he has started throwing better stuff.”
Riordan agreed with Yang, saying, “After making some adjustments, my ball speed and control got better.”
It looks like his scouting report that said he is capable of throwing fastballs in the mid to upper 140 kilometers per hour (86 miles per hour) range, along with sinkers, cut fastballs, sliders and changeups, was right.
With Riordan helping, Shin Jae-woong became the core of the bullpen with a record of 6-1 and an ERA of 3.18 as of Saturday.
He has usually been the eighth-inning setup man since Yang became manager, but he comes up to the hill as the lefty hitter specialist whenever Yang asks. In the last six innings he pitched in five games, he only allowed two hits and three walks.
“I think the club is operating in a way we expected in the beginning of the season,” Yang said. “Many people talk about the postseason possibility, but our goal is to win each game we face every day.”
BY kwon sang-soo [firstname.lastname@example.org]