The center hitter? If you let him do it, he’ll do it all

San Diego Padres’ Kim Ha-sung (29) fired a cannon in an exhibition game. He also showed perfect performance as a center hitter. Until last year, Kim Ha-sung was used as a leadoff, and he also wields a hard blow in the center lineup. Coach Mike Shildt is likely to be happy until the season opens.

San Diego defeated the Seattle Mariners of the 2024 Major League Baseball 12-4 in an exhibition game held at Peoria Stadium in Arizona on Tuesday local time. The team has recorded six wins and six losses in the exhibition game. He pitched big innings in the fifth inning to quickly clinch the game.

In the game on the day, Kim displayed outstanding performance. Having been on the starting lineup as fifth batter shortstop, Kim had one hit, one homer, one RBI, and one run from three times at bat. In the exhibition game, Kim had one homer, three RBIs, five runs scored, and a batting average of 0.417 (five hits from 12 times at bat) in six games with an on-base percentage of 0.750 OPS (on-base plus slugging percentage) of 1.313.

He failed to get on base in his first at bat. Kim Ha-seong, the first batter in the second inning, faced the opponent team’s starting pitcher Luis Castillo. Castillo is a talented starting pitcher, as he recorded 14 wins, nine losses and an ERA of 3.34 last year. As Castillo’s first pitch was crowded in the middle of the strike zone, Kim swung the bat boldly. However, the batter was caught by third baseman Josh Rojas and grounded out.

In the second at-bat, Kim Ha-sung was caught with an infield grounder. Kim Ha-sung, who faced the changed pitcher Carlos Vargas, hit the first pitch again this time. Again, a ball that was pushed into the middle of the strike zone came in. Kim Ha-sung made a sharp hit, but it flew in front of shortstop Ryan Bliss.

Leaving behind his disappointment at the previous at-bat, Kim Ha-sung hit a home run. With leadoff hitter Manny Machado on base in the fifth inning, Kim Ha-sung stood at the plate. Kim Ha-sung, who calmly picked out three balls in a row, then hit the ball on the fourth pitch. The ball flew toward the left-center fence and led to a home run. It was Kim Ha-sung’s first home run in an exhibition game.

Starting with Kim Ha-sung’s home run, San Diego scored five runs in the fifth inning alone, leading the mood in the game. Kim Ha-sung was replaced by Mason McCoy when he was defending in the sixth inning, and finished the game on the day.

After the game, Kim Ha-sung said in an interview with a local broadcaster, “My condition is very good now. I feel more comfortable this year, the fourth year of spring camp, than I did in 2021. (Preparation for the regular season) is also going well,” expressing confidence in his physical condition.

Kim Ha-sung has been enthusiastic about weight training this winter. It was not to hit more long balls. It was to build up physical strength to play a full season. At a glance, Kim Ha-sung has become bigger. “I didn’t increase my muscle mass to hit many home runs. I also lost a lot of weight after one season. I had a hard time in the last month of last year. I have built up my body to overcome those things,” Kim said.

In the shortstop position, Kim Ha-sung is also showing off his sense of stability. Kim Ha-sung, who played mostly as second baseman last year, won the Gold Glove in the utility category of the National League. However, Coach Mike Shildt said this year that he would use Kim Ha-sung as shortstop and Xander Bogaerts as second baseman. Bogaerts is also a top shortstop in the Major League. Bogaerts signed an 11-year, 280 million-dollar contract with the San Diego Padres last year. Shildt has decided to let Kim Ha-sung play shortstop instead of Bogaerts, which he purchased with huge investment.

“I had a hard time in my first year as a major league player. However, I invested a lot in defense. It was the driving force that I was able to endure until now. I feel more responsibility than feeling good to play the shortstop instead of Bogaerts. In our team, there are many players who can play shortstop, including Fernando Tatis Jr., Manny Machado, Jake Cronenworth and Bogaerts. There are some amazing players, but I got to see shortstop. It is an honor and a sense of responsibility,” Kim said.


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