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Record-chasing closer in S. Korean baseball retires

Sports 21:25 February 07, 2020

SEOUL, Feb. 7 (Yonhap) -- Seven saves from becoming South Korean baseball's all-time leader, veteran closer Son Seung-lak abruptly announced his retirement on Friday.

The Lotte Giants in the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) said Son, 37, decided to call it quits after negotiations to re-sign with the club fell through.

The right-hander is retiring with 271 saves, only six behind the career leader in the category, Oh Seung-hwan of the Samsung Lions. Oh spent the past six years in Japan and in Major League Baseball before rejoining the Lions for this season. Oh is in rehab following an offseason elbow surgery and is also serving a 72-game suspension over an earlier gambling conviction -- all of which would have left the doors open for Son to take the lead in career saves, if only briefly.

In this file photo from Oct. 11, 2018, Son Seung-lak of the Lotte Giants celebrates his team's 4-0 victory over the Kia Tigers in a Korea Baseball Organization regular season game at Gwangju-Kia Champions Field in Gwangju, 330 kilometers south of Seoul. (Yonhap)

But the Giants said Son was "insistent" about retiring now rather than going through more rounds of contract talks. He also told the club he wanted to step aside for younger pitchers and start spending more time with his family.

Son appeared in 601 games and had a 45-49 record with a 3.64 ERA.

He collected 94 saves in four seasons with the Giants, whom he joined as a free agent after eight seasons with the Nexen (currently Kiwoom) Heroes franchise. Son set a Giants franchise record with 37 saves in 2017.

He only recorded nine saves in 2019, which ended the streak of consecutive seasons with double-digit saves at nine.

The Giants plan to hold a retirement ceremony for Son during the upcoming season.

In this file photo from May 19, 2019, Son Seung-lak of the Lotte Giants pitches against the Kiwoom Heroes in the bottom of the sixth inning of a Korea Baseball Organization regular season game at Gocheok Sky Dome in Seoul. (Yonhap)

jeeho@yna.co.kr
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