At the beginning of the season, not many people expected them to be this good. The Lotte Giants’ Lee Jung-geun and Lee Jeong-hoon have been revitalizing their sagging team.
After starting the season as a backup catcher, Lee was recalled to the first team on June 15 after spending more than a month in the second team following his expulsion from the first team, and he’s been on fire since, hitting .487 with 19 hits in 39 at-bats with one home run and nine RBIs in 18 games. It’s a small sample size, but it’s much better than the first half of the year 메이저놀이터 (25-for-25, .280, 4 RBI in 26 games).
Drafted by the KIA Tigers with the 94th pick in the 10th round of the 2017 KBO Draft, Lee was released by KIA at the end of last season and was immediately called up by Lotte. Preparing for the new season as an outfielder instead of his original position as a catcher, he didn’t get a chance for over three months before making his first at-bat of the season against the Changwon NC Dinos on March 12, decorating his first at-bat with a masu hanging pouch to make sure fans knew his name.
Lee’s bat heated up even more, as he made his presence felt with a .442 batting average with 23 hits and eight RBIs in 52 at-bats over 19 games in August. As a result, he’s been getting more playing time as of late, and in the 12th game of the 2023 Shinhan Bank SOL KBO League against the LG Twins on Thursday at Jamsil Baseball Stadium in Seoul, he started at third base and platooned with Ahn Chi-hong and Yoon Dong-hee in the center field.
The manager was pleased with the duo’s performance. When asked about the duo prior to the game, manager Larry Sutton said, “They’ve been doing a great job beyond expectations. There’s a saying in English, ‘When the wave comes, you have to ride it’ (the Korean expression is ‘when the water comes in, you have to paddle’), and it’s not just one or two games where they’re doing well, it’s more and more periods where they’re doing well consistently.” Sutton expressed his satisfaction.
“They have good initiative, they’re seeing the ball in their strike zone, they’re seeing the ball well,” Sutton said, “and they’re executing what they’ve planned to do at the plate with confidence, so they’re doing it consistently,” he said, analyzing the factors that contributed to the performance of Jung-Hoon Lee.
As for Lee, he’s likely to remain in the center field lineup for the foreseeable future. “He’s a typical middle-of-the-order hitter,” Sutton said. He can hit more than two doubles and has good zone control. “Of course, he can’t hit two or three home runs, but he can drive in a lot of runs, so he’s a good fit for the No. 3-5 (center field) role,” Sutton said. It will be interesting to see if Lotte, mired in a four-game losing streak, can find a breakthrough with the performances of the two players.