Heading into the 2022 season, LG was scratching its head over re-signing foreign pitchers. Casey Kelly (34), the team’s foreign ace, and Andrew Suarez (31), who pitched well in 2021, were both offered new contracts, but the players didn’t readily put their stamps on them.
At the time, LG offered both players slightly increased contracts. The players were reportedly not satisfied. LG then boldly played a different card. They signed right-hander Adam Plutko, 32, who they had been eyeing. There was only one foreign pitching slot left, and since neither of them could sign, Kelly’s side got the first crack. Suarez left the team, choosing to play in Japan.
Suarez was a quality pitcher who went 10-2 with a 2.18 ERA in 23 games in 2021, throwing 115⅓ innings. While he was plagued by frequent injuries, this level of pitching quality is hard to find again, at least when healthy. Conversely, LG’s signing of Plutko shows that they had a lot of faith in him.
Since then, the two have had mixed results, with Suarez continuing to struggle and Plutko producing the kind of outlier performance that LG was looking for. For LG, giving up on Suarez, who had health issues, has turned out to be a positive. It was certainly a gamble, but one that paid off.
Suarez didn’t have much success in Japan last year, and he signed a minor league deal with St. Louis ahead of the season to try to get back into the major leagues. It didn’t work out quite as well as he hoped. Even in Triple-A, he failed to crack the starting rotation. He was used as a long-relief option for more than an inning out of the bullpen, but he posted a 5.08 ERA in 28 1/3 innings. He was up and down from game to game.
Eventually, Suarez left the team. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported on June 26 that Suarez, who was playing for Triple-A Memphis, will opt out of his contract. Suarez has an opt-out clause in his contract that allows him to waive the remainder of his contract and become a free agent if he doesn’t reach the major leagues by June 1. When he didn’t see that happening in St. Louis, he decided to leave.
Suarez made his major league debut with San Francisco in 2018 and went 7-15 with a 4.66 ERA in 56 games (31 starts) through 2020. He was 29 years old when he joined LG, and many people were surprised to see the big fish rolling. However, he hasn’t been able to find a home in South Korea or Japan, and his ultimate goal of returning to the major leagues seems to be elusive. He’s likely to be sought after as a bullpen arm, but there’s no telling when he’ll be back on the big league mound. Based on his Triple-A performance this year, it could be quite a while.
Plutko, on the other hand, has been consistently good. He was struggling with his innings at the beginning of last year, but after tweaking his pitch design and slider in the middle of the year, he took off. In 162 innings pitched in 28 games last year, Plutko went 15-5 with a 2.39 ERA. By all accounts, he was a “healthy Suarez.
This year, he’s off to a great start, going 7-0 with a 2.10 ERA in his first 10 games of the season, throwing 60 innings. He’s now fully acclimated to the KBO and has shown a knack for getting out of clutch situations. Considering how shaky the LG starting pitching staff was at the beginning of the season, Plutko has done his job as a “bulwark” on the LG mound.
He’s also back in the mix for the win column after narrowly missing out last year. Plutko was second in wins last year with 15. This year, with seven wins in 10 games, he is second in the league behind Eric Peddie (NC‧8 wins). Given Plutko’s individual prowess and LG’s team strength, the potential is there.
In Twins franchise history, only four players have won multiple games in a season: Lee Sang-hoon (1994 and 1995), Kim Yong-soo (1998), Shin Yun-ho (2001), and last year’s Casey Kelly. If Plutko joins that list, LG’s pick at the time will be a huge success 메이저놀이터.