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Ex-MLB infielder predicts big league success for former KBO star

Sports 15:54 February 18, 2021

By Yoo Jee-ho

SEOUL, Feb. 18 (Yonhap) -- They may have spent only a few days together training in Seoul, but former major leaguer Alvaro Espinoza saw enough of San Diego Padres infielder Kim Ha-seong that he thinks the Korean star will be a successful big leaguer.

Espinoza, a longtime major league infielder hired as new infield coach for the Kiwoom Heroes, had a chance to work with Kim earlier this month, before the former Kiwoom shortstop left for the United States for Padres' spring training.

After seven years with the Heroes, Kim signed a four-year deal with the Padres in December.

Espinoza, a glove-first shortstop who spent 12 years with five major league clubs, said Thursday Kim will be just fine in his first major league season.

Alvaro Espinoza, fielding coach for the Kiwoom Heroes, speaks to reporters at Gocheok Sky Dome in Seoul on Feb. 18, 2021. (Yonhap)

"I think he's going to be an outstanding player in the major leagues and he's going to be exciting to watch," Espinoza told reporters at Gocheok Sky Dome in Seoul. "I know he's going to hit because I saw him here for a couple of days and I saw him on TV. I know he's going to play good defense."

Kim has spent most of his Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) career at shortstop, with a few cameo appearances at third base last year. With the Padres, Kim will have to switch to second base, with MVP-type stars Manny Machado and Fernando Tatis Jr. entrenched at third and shortstop, respectively.

Espinoza predicted Kim will be "an everyday second baseman" and having talented teammates such as Machado and Tatis can only help Kim.

"There's not going to be much pressure on him to show what he's got," Espinoza said. "He's going to be in great shape."

Kiwoom Heroes' infielder Kim Hye-seong makes a throw during practice at Gocheok Sky Dome in Seoul on Feb. 14, 2021. (Yonhap)

Espinoza, a 58-year-old native of Venezuela, had been a coach and a minor league manager for several organizations before coming to the KBO. He's tasked with shoring up the defense for a club that committed the most errors in the league last year with 112 in 144 games.

Espinoza said he likes what he has seen so far from his new team.

"I think we have a lot of guys that can catch the ball," the coach said. "My philosophy with errors is that we have to learn from them. We're human beings and we're allowed to make errors. But we can't make the same error over and over again. That's going to be the key."

He added that he wants his players to focus "making the routine play" instead of spectacular ones.

"We have to practice the way we're going to want to play in the game," Espinoza added. "The work ethic they've shown so far has been great. It will get them to a lot of places."

Kiwoom Heroes' infielder Kim Woong-bin fields a grounder during practice at Gocheok Sky Dome in Seoul on Feb. 14, 2021. (Yonhap)

jeeho@yna.co.kr
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