By Yoo Jee-ho
SEOUL, May 8 (Yonhap) -- Jose Miguel Fernandez, the Cuban hitting machine operating in South Korean baseball, hasn't seen too many pitches he didn't like so far during the opening week of the 2020 season.
Fernandez went 8-for-13 in the first three games for the Doosan Bears in the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) through Thursday. After opening his season with two hits in each of the first two games, Fernandez exploded for a four-hit night Thursday against the LG Twins at Jamsil Stadium in Seoul.
With that, Fernandez has relaunched his pursuit of history: to set a new record for most hits in a season.
The former major leaguer led the KBO in hits last year with 197 while playing all 144 games. He came up four shy of matching the record set by Seo Geon-chang of the Nexen (currently Kiwoom) Heroes in 2014, when he had 201 hits in 128 games.
Toward the end of last season, Doosan teammates informed Fernandez that he was getting close to Seo's mark. The Cuban hitter didn't end up getting there, but he opened this season with a bang. No foreign hitter in league history has had more hits in the first three games of a season than Fernandez.
And to think: Fernandez said he doesn't feel 100 percent at the plate yet.
"I should be able to keep getting better and better," he said through an interpreter Thursday. "I've been preparing hard for the start of the season. I didn't get a lot of hits against LG in a couple of preseason games, and I guess I was saving some hits for this series."
Though he now has one year of Korean baseball experience under his belt, Fernandez said hitting doesn't get any easier.
"I'd love to lead the league in hits, home runs, batting average and a bunch of other categories, but it'd be tough to do it in just one because there are so many quality hitters in the KBO," he added. "And I know pitchers will come ready to face me, and I'll have to double down."
Batting second Thursday, Fernandez sent hits all over the field. He hit a double down the right field line in the first inning and had an opposite field single in the third. He pulled a single to right in the fifth and then had another to right-center in the ninth.
In 2019 Fernandez had 416 out of his 645 plate appearances as the No. 2 hitter. He made his season debut in the fifth spot Tuesday but has batted second in each of the next two games.
Manager Kim Tae-hyoung said Fernandez will stay at No. 2 spot for the foreseeable future. That would give him a few extra at-bats in which to pick up hits.
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