Lotte at a crossroads: ‘5 percent chance of winning’ or collapse…so when will the ‘right to support’ come?
The Lotte Giants are at the crossroads of holding on to their five-game winning streak or collapsing. They are in desperate need of a turnaround, but when will their injured players return?
Lotte took a knee in their “El Loco Rápido” rivalry game against the LG Twins on April 25, marking their sixth consecutive losing series. Lotte had been on a roll in April and May, contending for the top spot, with a 29-18 record and a win-loss margin of up to +11 as of the end of the three-game series against the Kia Tigers. However, Lotte started to fall apart after the three-game series against KIA.
They suffered a shocking “sweep” against the KT Wiz in a close series that went to double overtime. They then dropped one and two games to the Samsung Lions, Hanwha Eagles, and SSG Landers respectively, suffered another sweep in a revenge match against KT, and finally bowed out of the three-game series against LG last weekend, erasing their +11 win-loss margin with a 33-33 record.
One of the many reasons for Lotte’s steep decline has been a rash of injuries. In the 2022 season, Lotte finished April in second place before going downhill as COVID-19 and injuries began to pile up. This year was no different. The first key player to leave the lineup was Choi Jun-yong.
He had been delayed in joining the first team due to a poor performance in the exhibition games, but after cruising to a zero ERA with two holds in nine games, he was dropped from the lineup in mid-May. A micro-inflammation in his back was discovered, and at the start of June, Ahn Kwon-soo, who had been looking good as the “leadoff” pitcher since the beginning of the season, underwent surgery to remove bone chips from his elbow in early June.
The bad news kept coming. Noh Jin-hyuk, who signed a four-year, 5 billion won contract in free agency after the 2022 season ended, was dismissed from the first team after complaining of pain in his side during batting practice before his resignation on July 15. While the pain looked like it could lead to a major injury at the time, and it was a relief that it didn’t turn out to be a torn or ruptured muscle, Noh’s departure was certainly devastating given the team’s situation.
Furthermore, Jeong-hoon, who was given time to recuperate in the second team due to a severe slump in the exhibition games and the beginning of the season before returning to the first team and showing good hitting form, felt a pain in his side during a game against SSG on the 16th and was diagnosed with a tear and placed on the injured list (IL) the next day. In addition, Na Kyun-na, the “girdle” of the starting lineup who swept through four wins in April and earned the monthly MVP title, suffered an elbow injury against KT on the 21st and is currently out of the first team.
Lotte’s record in their last 19 games is 4-15. They’ve lost all of their hard-earned +11 runs in just 22 days. There are a number of ways to turn this around. It’s how the current first-team players overcome difficult times, but it hasn’t worked so far. The easiest way to lift a sagging mood is to bring in reinforcements.
For now, Ahn Kwon-soo won”t be back for the first half of the season. After undergoing surgery, Ahn has started playing catch, but it will take some time for him to spin the bat, digest the technical training, and get a feel for the game. Currently, the fastest option to return to the first team is Noh Jin-hyuk.
At the time of his departure, he was expected to return within 10 or 15 days. Noh and Jung-hoon traveled to the Ijima Medical Center in Japan to focus on their recovery. Manager Larry Sutton said on April 25, “Noh Jinhyeok is in the stage where he is starting to lightly T-bat, run, and play catch.” However, it will not be easy to make a comeback in the midweek three-game series against Samsung, so he is expected to make his first team debut as early as the weekend against the Doosan Bears in Ulsan.
Jung-hoon’s recovery, which was expected to take three weeks, is going very well. “He has improved a lot and made progress. He is recovering faster than the schedule. For example, he felt that he recovered as much as two weeks’ worth of training in one week.” Still, it will be a little later than Noh’s return to the first team.
On the mound, Choi Jun-yong and Na Kyun-ahn are expected to return around the same time. Choi visited the Sasik Stadium on the 13th and 15th to check his physical condition before the Sasik Hanwha game, and on the 23rd and 25th, he pitched one inning each against the KT second team to get a feel for the game. Na Gyun-ahn, who was scratched due to elbow pain but was not a major injury as feared, is also expected to start training again this week.토토사이트
It’s impossible to expect reinforcements to return for the three-game midweek series starting on the 27th, but the “core” will be back one by one sooner or later. Until then, it’s imperative that they defend their fourth-place position and maintain a winning percentage above 5%.