Lotte Giants’ manager trying to buck KBO trend in 1st full season

The Lotte Giants have spent recent years in South Korean baseball wilderness, having missed out on the postseason every year since 2018. They've only been in the playoffs once since 2014.

Expectations coming into the 2022 season weren't particularly high for the Busan-based club, but the perennially-rebuilding Giants fueled some hopes for better days ahead by tying for the best record in the preseason in March.

Recent history in the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) suggests, however, that preseason success doesn't necessarily lead to similar results in the regular season. If anything, teams that have finished first or second in recent exhibition campaigns ended up near the bottom of the standings.

Lotte manager Larry Sutton wants to buck that trend this year for his club.

"Our past doesn't define our future," Sutton said Saturday before facing the home team Kiwoom Heroes to begin the 2022 season at Gocheok Sky Dome in Seoul. This is Sutton's first full season as the Giants' skipper after taking the reins in May last year.

"We are writing our own story. We're creating our own identity," Sutton added. "The last two months, we've continued our clubhouse harmony, playing together as one. The momentum we had in the second half of last year, we've continued that feeling of playing together."

The Giants finished the 2021 season at 65-71-8 (wins-losses-ties), good for only eighth place among 10 teams. But they had the third-best record in the second half at 31-25-7. That, plus the emergence of young talent, gives Sutton enough cause for optimism.

Sutton is also excited to have a new slugger, DJ Peters, aboard as his new cleanup. Sutton himself was once a power hitter in the KBO and led the league with 35 home runs in 2005.

Asked if Peters could match that total this year, Sutton smiled and said, "I am not even close to DJ. He's 10 times more of an athlete than I was."

"He's got the potential to do really good things in the KBO," Sutton continued. "It's just a matter of helping him along his journey, helping him understand the league, helping him understand the pitchers. And he's got the aptitude to grab onto that."

Peters went through a 1-for-23 funk during the preseason but homered in his final spring game on Tuesday.

Source: Yonhap News Agency