Lee In-bok from ‘elbow’ surgery, expected to return in May-June… Competition for Lotte 5 starters intensifies again
As Lee In-bok, the ‘good luck’, underwent surgery to remove a bone fragment in his elbow, the competition for the 5th starting pitcher is expected to intensify once again.
The Lotte Giants announced the list of players participating in the 2023 season 1st team spring camp, starting with Guam on the 27th and leading to Ishigaki and Okinawa, Japan. Several players, including players recruited through FA (free agent) as well as rookies, were listed, but Lee In-bok was not named.
Lee In-bok has established himself as Lotte’s ‘good fortune’ from the year before last. Lee In-bok took the mound in 8 games in the 2021 season after switching positions as a starter and played an active role with an average ERA of 2.59 with 3 wins and no losses, and his good flow continued into the 2022 season. Lee In-bok recorded an average ERA of 4.19 with 9 wins and 9 losses in 26 games (23 starts) last year.
Why was Lee In-bok excluded from the spring camp roster while he was firmly establishing himself as the 5th starter? An official from Lotte explained, “Lee In-bok underwent surgery to remove a bone fragment in his right elbow. We are thinking of returning in May or June. Returning before the All-Star break is the best scenario.” 메이저놀이터
As Lee In-bok departed from the team, Lotte had the task of securing the 5th starting resource for this spring camp. For Lee In-bok, there is no choice but to remain regretful, but it is an opportunity for players who are aiming to enter the starting rotation. Fierce competition is expected.
Lotte reinforced the mound by signing a 3+1 year contract with Han Hyun-hee through FA this winter with a total of 4 billion won, including a down payment of 300 million won, an annual salary of 1.5 billion won, and an option of 2.2 billion won. Therefore, Lotte has secured resources for the 1st to 4th selections for the 2023 season, including Dan Strayley, Charlie Barnes, Park Se-woong, and Han Hyun-hee.
The players who are likely to compete for the 5th starting spot are Na Gyun-an, Seo Jun-won and Kim Jin-wook. Among the players on the first-team spring camp roster, they are relatively experienced players. In terms of performance in the 2022 season, Na Kyun-an is the most likely to enter the starting lineup.
Na Gyun-an, who joined as a catcher and changed his position to a pitcher, showed potential by recording 1 win, 2 losses, 1 hold, 1 save and an average ERA of 6.41 in 23 games (7 starts) in the 2021 season. ’ and recorded an average ERA of 3.98 with 3 wins, 8 losses and 2 holds in 39 games (13 starts). He is 4-8 with a 4.75 earned run average in 20 games as a starting pitcher.
Seo Jun-won is also an indispensable competitor. Seo Jun-won has caught the eyes of many scouts since his days at Gyeongnam High School, such as spraying fast balls that exceed 150 km/h. Although he has not been able to show off his outstanding talent in high school on the professional stage, he is experienced enough to record 14 wins and 19 losses in 48 games (222⅔ innings) as a starter since his joining.
Kim Jin-wook is the ‘special top prospect’ that Lotte is expecting the most. Kim Jin-wook wore a Lotte uniform as the first overall pick in the 2nd round of the 2021 rookie draft. At the time, Lotte had a lot of expectations, enough to receive a down payment of 370 million won. His game management ability is evaluated as excellent, but unlike his high school days, it is because he is having a particularly hard time in the first ball.
But there are plenty of possibilities. Kim Jin-wook showed his potential by throwing 10 strikeouts and 1 run (1 earned) over 7 innings against the NC Dinos on April 5 last year. However, he was unable to continue the good memories of his first appearance last year, such as being diagnosed with Corona 19, and stayed with an average ERA of 6.56 with 2 wins and 5 losses in 14 games (12 starts) last year.
As in last year, another fierce competition is expected to unfold in Lotte for the 5th starting position. Na Kyun-an, Seo Jun-won, and Kim Jin-wook are strong candidates to compete for selection, but another player may jump in. What kind of player will have the joy of entering the starting rotation?