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(LEAD) KBO manager not discouraged by slow start to 1st season

All Headlines 17:27 May 12, 2020

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By Yoo Jee-ho

SEOUL, May 12 (Yonhap) -- Samsung Lions' first-year manager Huh Sam-young isn't afraid of making changes, nor is he discouraged by criticism he's been facing after the first week of the new season.

Despite having no prior coaching or managerial experience, Huh was asked last fall to take over a ship that's been wobbly the past four years. The Lions made six consecutive Korean Series from 2010 to 2015, and won the championship from 2011 to 2014. But they haven't been back in the postseason since 2015, and, when reached on phone by Yonhap News Agency on Monday, Huh said changes are necessary.

In this file photo from May 5, 2020, the Samsung Lions (in white) and the NC Dinos play their first game of the 2020 Korea Baseball Organization season at an empty Daegu Samsung Lions Park in Daegu, 300 kilometers southeast of Seoul. (Yonhap)

"I understand there are people who are critical of the way we ran things in the first week," Huh said. "We'll keep our ears open to their criticism. But changes are inevitable, and it's only natural that we'll go through some difficult times when we are trying to make changes. Everyone is trying to steer this club in the right direction."

The Lions went 2-4 to open the 2020 Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) season. Huh used a different batting order in every one of those games. A longtime data analysis expert in the Lions' front office, Huh believes he needs to have more positional versatility and flexibility than other, more talented clubs to stay competitive.

But it wasn't always smooth sailing. For instance, Choi Young-jin, who had mostly played the two corner infield positions, made his debut in left field last Thursday. He was charged with an error, and then was demoted to the minors on Monday.

"He's a capable infielder, but he needs more reps in the outfield," Huh said. "We decided to give him some time to work as an outfielder in the minors."

In this file photo from May 5, 2020, Samsung Lions manager Huh Sam-young watches his team in action against the NC Dinos in the first game of the 2020 Korea Baseball Organization season at Daegu Samsung Lions Park in Daegu, 300 kilometers southeast of Seoul. (Yonhap)

Huh is expected to stick to the same script this week, as he looks to move his players around the field.

Starting outfielder Koo Ja-wook is sidelined with an arm injury, while shortstop Lee Hak-ju is set to return to the lineup Tuesday. That means Tyler Saladino, who filled in at shortstop last week, will likely move to third base. Lee Won-seok is expected to move across the diamond from third base to first base.

Lee Sung-gyu, who started six games at first base last week, may be asked to play some outfield. He has never appeared in the outfield in his career.

"If we're to become a better team, we have to endure these difficult times," Huh said. "If the manager fears changes and has negative thoughts in his head, then coaches and players will lose confidence. I'll try to stay optimistic and keep thinking about ways to make us stronger."

Prior to Tuesday's game against the Kiwoom Heroes at Gocheok Sky Dome, Huh said Saladino will be playing multiple positions moving forward.

"I don't think he has one position where he's best at. He can handle all positions," Huh said. "He played shortstop mostly in the U.S., but he can handle second base and third base. We may even try him in the outfield."

Asked about managing regular season games for the first time after weeks of spring training games and scrimmages, Huh said, almost casually, "These games don't feel that much different."

jeeho@yna.co.kr
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