Jung Hoon is back, Sutton raves, Lotte is stronger

(By Yoo Jun-sang, Sports Illustrated) On March 4, Lotte Giants outfielder Jeong Hoon was sent to the second team just one month into the regular season. At the time, Lotte manager Larry Sutton emphasized that he was a “necessary player,” but expressed disappointment that he hadn’t been able to improve his hitting form since camp.

Jung-hoon began playing in the Futures League less than a week after being removed from the first team roster.

In his four-week stint with the second team, Chung went 12-for-27 with a .444 batting average, one home run and four RBIs in 10 games. Jung-hoon completed his final checkup with a two-game multi-hit streak against the Gyeongsan Samsung Lions on June 26-27.

After being promoted to the first team at the start of June, Jung-hoon came off the bench on the first day against the LG Twins in Jamsil. The next day at home against the KIA Tigers, he was named to the starting lineup as the fifth batter and first baseman. Given the amount of traveling involved in the trip to Seoul and the fact that the opposing pitcher was left-hander Yang Hyun-jong, Jung-hoon was given the opportunity to start.

Jung-hoon lived up to his manager’s expectations. He went 1-for-2 with a home run, one RBI, and two runs scored, while drawing two walks.

His operational skills also stood out. In the bottom of the first inning, when his team took a 2-0 lead, he laid down a sacrifice bunt with runners on first and second, sending two runners to third and second base, respectively. Lotte then scored five more runs on Kim Min-seok’s RBI single and Lee Hak-joo’s grand slam. By the end of the first inning, the gap between the two teams had grown to seven runs, further tilting the game in Lotte’s favor. Lotte took control of the game and went on to win 14-2.

Even though he didn’t drive in a run, Lotte was able to keep their chances alive thanks to a sacrifice bunt by Jeong Hoon. Sutton was pleased with Jung-hoon’s performance ahead of the three-game series.

“All the players from 1-9 did their job well, especially Jung-hoon, who started the game for the first time in a long time and made a sacrifice bunt at a crucial moment,” Sutton said with a smile, adding, “The small elements of the game 스포츠토토 (like Jung-hoon’s bunt) that our team envisioned improved a lot.”

Jung-hoon’s performance continued on Day 3. After being left out of the starting lineup, Jung-hoon pinch-hit for Kim Min-seok with two outs in the bottom of the sixth inning and hit a game-winning RBI double off KIA left-hander Lee Jun-young. In the bottom of the eighth inning, he doubled and finished 2-for-2 with two RBIs. Lee Hak-joo was the hero of the game with a game-tying hit in the bottom of the ninth, but it was Jung-hoon who set the stage for the comeback win.

As it turns out, the extra time to regroup paid off for Jung-hoon. “I think my batting feel improved as I played a lot of at-bats in the second team,” Jung-hoon said after the second game.

Not only does it give the team more depth, but it’s also great to have a veteran anchor among the younger players. Jung-hoon may be on his way to a “breakout” season, but he’s still an indispensable player for Lotte.

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