‘Post Kim Jae-ho’ stretches again…”My path is shortstop, now I won’t be shaken”

Infielder Ahn Jae-seok, who joined the Doosan Bears as the team’s first draft pick 17 years after veteran shortstop Kim Jae-ho, is considered the “post-Jae-ho. In the long run, Doosan hopes that Ahn and Kim will be the centerpieces of the infield and outfield, respectively.

As expected, Ahn has established himself in the first team since his rookie year, proving why he is the “first choice” shortstop. Ahn had a solid rookie season in 2021 (batting .255 with 51 hits, two home runs, and 14 RBIs in 96 games).

Of course, the still-young Ahn had his ups and downs, as the “sophomore jinx” set in. In 2022 (99 games, .213 with 50 hits, 3 home runs, and 17 RBIs), Ahn spent more time showing disappointment with his offense and defense than expectations. One of the more painful moments was his outrageous baserunning play against the SSG Landers in Jamsil last year. His defense at shortstop was shaky, and he often had to play second base.

A desperate Ahn Jae-seok re-entered the shortstop competition this season with the arrival of Lee Seung-yup. However, after losing the shortstop spot to Lee Yoo-chan from the start of the season, Ahn was sidelined with a back injury in early May just as he was hitting his stride. After a somewhat lengthy rehabilitation, Ahn recently started playing in Futures League games.

Speaking to MK Sports ahead of the May 25 game against the Goyang Heroes in the Futures League, Ahn said, “Actually, my back hasn’t been good from the start. I think it’s because I increased my training intensity from spring training. It was more of a hindrance when defending than batting. I was disappointed that I had to pull out at a time when my hitting was getting better, but I told the team that I couldn’t be a negative for the team in defense.”

Doosan Future Team head coach Lee Jung-hoon and the club’s training staff checked Ahn’s back as conservatively as possible. As the area was prone to recurrence, the rehabilitation was done in stages.

“Personally, I was in a hurry, but coach Lee Jung-hoon and the training staff kept emphasizing that I should go slowly. My back pain is almost gone now, so my physical condition has definitely improved. I was able to get back into the game faster than I expected because I was in good shape while increasing my training intensity. I still feel like my swing timing isn’t quite right, so I’ll have to work on it as I continue to play.”

The shortstop spot on Doosan’s first team is still up for grabs. Park Kye-beom and Kim Jae-ho are currently in the rotation as Lee Yoo-chan moved to second base. Add to that the return of Ahn Jae-seok to the first team, and the shortstop competition intensifies.

“I want to show something (in the shortstop competition), but I feel like I’ve put it down for now. I had a bad batting average and injuries. If I make it back to the first team, I’m going to focus on my baseball. Anyway, I think shortstop is where I need to go completely. I have some confidence in my defense now, so I want to continue to show good performance while gaining skills and experience in hitting.”

In late April, Lee Seung-yeop said of Ahn Jae-seok, “To survive in Jamsil Stadium, you need to hit hard and hit fast. It is difficult to float and go over the center fence of Jamsil Stadium. A bat that hits line drives frequently will suit you much better,” he ordered.

In response, Ahn Jae-seok said, “It’s definitely the most difficult to produce line drives. Anyway, I’m focusing on sending strong balls to the ground. I think Jamsil Stadium is too big, so it’s very frustrating whenever I get caught in front of the fence. I went through it last year, but I feel like if I keep doing this and that, I will lose more of what is mine. Now, I will focus on maximizing my strengths while keeping my mentality steady.”

Ahn went 0-for-2 as a substitute in the 24th game against Goyang and 1-for-4 as a starter at shortstop in the 25th game against Goyang. “Ahn Jae-seok needs more time to improve his game sense,” said Lee Jung-hoon. Until the beginning of June, he is expected to play in the Futures League to get a feel for the game. 먹튀검증

“I would like to thank the fans for their great interest and encouragement even though I was sick and sluggish at the beginning of this season. I want to make my body stronger and move up to the first team again soon. I will prepare well to reward you with good performances,” Ahn said encouragingly.

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