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Pirates' manager Shelton to keep playing left-handed Park Hoy-jun vs. southpaws

All News 14:58 August 11, 2021

By Yoo Jee-ho

SEOUL, Aug. 11 (Yonhap) -- For some reason, when Pittsburgh Pirates' manager Derek Shelton saw the pitching matchup against the St. Louis Cardinals for Tuesday's game at home, he considered it "a good opportunity" to get Park Hoy-jun, left-handed batting South Korean infielder, into the starting lineup.

The Cardinals were set to start veteran lefty J.A. Happ at PNC Park in Pittsburgh. Park, who joined the Pirates in a trade from the New York Yankees in late July, only had one previous at-bat against a left-hander in the majors. It seemed counterintuitive to bat Park in the leadoff spot against Happ, who had held left-handed batters to just one home run and a .680 on-base plus slugging percentage (OPS) in 83 plate appearances this year.

In this USA Today Sports photo via Reuters, Park Hoy-jun of the Pittsburgh Pirates rounds the bases after hitting a solo home run against the St. Louis Cardinals in the bottom of the fourth inning of a Major League Baseball regular season game at PNC Park in Pittsburgh on Aug. 10, 2021. (Yonhap)

But Park made Shelton look good, hitting a solo home run in the fourth for his first career major league home run. This came after Park was called out on a questionable pitch outside the zone in the first inning. That was the only Pirates hit in their 4-1 loss.

Park's only previous meeting against a left-hander came last Wednesday against the Milwaukee Brewers' reliever Brent Suter. Park hit a double then. This means Park had a double and a home run in his first three major league at-bats against left-handers.

Not too shabby.

"He's going to get some opportunities. Today, we saw it as a good chance against a left-hander," Shelton said in his postgame Zoom interview. "And he had a good swing against (Happ). He's going to continue to get his opportunities."

Though minor league pitching is clearly not on par with big league pitching, Park performed better against left-handers than right-handers there.

In this USA Today Sports photo via Reuters, Park Hoy-jun of the Pittsburgh Pirates is congratulated by his teammates after hitting a solo home run against the St. Louis Cardinals in the bottom of the fourth inning of a Major League Baseball regular season game at PNC Park in Pittsburgh on Aug. 10, 2021. (Yonhap)

The 25-year-old began this year in Double-A and moved up to Triple-A in May. He batted .306/.400/.624 against southpaws with seven home runs and 18 RBIs in 101 plate appearances.

In comparison, Park put up a .288/.477/.431 line against right-handers, with four homers and 17 RBIs in 201 plate appearances.

"Even in Triple-A, I had pretty good numbers against left-handed pitchers," Park said. "I believed in myself that it was going to be good and I could help the team."

Park said he tries to "be on time" at the plate, and he had a good pitch to hit against Happ. Shelton has also been impressed with Park's swing so far.

"It's a really smooth, easy swing," Shelton said. "There's a little bit of thump coming off the bat."

In this Associated Press photo, Park Hoy-jun of the Pittsburgh Pirates hits a solo home run against the St. Louis Cardinals in the bottom of the fourth inning of a Major League Baseball regular season game at PNC Park in Pittsburgh on Aug. 10, 2021. (Yonhap)

jeeho@yna.co.kr
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