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Weekly Review

Teams anxious as regular season is ready to begin

The KBO preseason ended on Sunday and the teams are left with mixed feelings going into the regular season that is due to start on April 1. For the Lotte Giants, who finished the preseason at the bottom of the league, that feeling is mixed with anxiety.

Although the preseason is more of an opportunity for teams to inspect and experiment, it would be wrong to say the Giants have nothing to worry about, especially in its bullpen.

The Giants lost to the KT Wiz on Saturday and Sunday by 0-11 and 3-5 respectively, which put them in last position in the KBO preseason standings.

In terms of batting, although the lineup had its ups-and-downs, it is the least of the Giants’ concerns. Although the team scored only three points last weekend, it collected 19 hits, four home runs and 20 runs scored against the Hanwha Eagles on March 19.

Given that the best batting lineup for the Giants is largely composed of veteran players who have secured their starting position over the past several years, the team’s poor performance in batting during the last two games could be considered as transient stagnation.

The bullpen lineup troubles the Giants the most. Finishing eighth in the league last year, the Giants have tried to add more depth into their pitching lineup by recruiting free agents Son Seung-lak from Nexen Heroes and Yoon Kil-hyun from SK Wyverns. But, the poor performance by Son and Yoon, who were expected to rescue the Giants relief lineup, is inevitably disquieting for the team.

Player in focus: Kim Sa-youn (KT Wiz)

KT Wiz outfielder Kim Sa-youn finished the preseason hot on the plate and is determined to keep it that way even when the regular season begins, which is scheduled to start on April 1.

Kim wrapped up the preseason in the final exhibition game against Lotte Giants on Sunday and collected one hit in three at-bats, three runs batted in (RBI) and one run scored. Kim was outstanding in the fourth inning especially, when he hit a two run homer and a sacrifice fly to secure the lead for the Wiz. Kim went 14-for-57 during the preseason, putting up .246 batting average (BA) and 13 RBIs.

Kim was a rising star for the newly admitted KT Wiz in 2015. A leading batter in the Korea’s minor league, he was expected to adjust well in the first level league. However, a hand injury stopped Kim from meeting the expectations that came his way. While he was recovering from the injury, the team went ahead with some changes in the roster. By the time Kim recovered, his starting position was no longer secured and he had to finish the season with .254 BA, 27 RBIs and seven home runs.

During the winter, he sought an opportunity to exceed last season. Forcing himself to adjust his batting form to use more of his lower body, his batting power has increased tremendously. His efforts paid off. As well as a home run on Sunday, Kim has driven six balls over the fence in the last month, topping the league standings in home runs during the preseason.

Kim is not ready to place any special meaning to his preseason performance. In fact, he does not wish to come to any hasty presumption. “I don’t consider topping the home run standing during the exhibition games to mean much,” said Kim. “I am rather cautious not to exaggerate my swings.”

The Wiz, who finished last in the Korean league last season, hopes to have a better season this year. If Kim extends his solid performance to the regular season, then the Wiz batting lineup will have much to look forward to. The Wiz will travel to Incheon to play the SK Wyverns this Friday. Its first home game in Suwon is slated for April 5 against the Samsung Lions.
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