Infielder growing into new spot in lineup for Heroes

SEOUL– Over his past five seasons for the Kiwoom Heroes in the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO), Song Sung-mun often found himself playing around the infield and batting in several different spots in the lineup. His versatility — Song has played first base, second base and third base — has both been his blessing and his curse, something that has kept him in the league as a fifth-round draft pick but has also prevented him from locking down an everyday job in one position.
Entering his sixth KBO season at age 25, Song appears to have secured a steady role. Even before the season, manager Hong Won-ki anointed Song as his everyday third baseman and No. 2 hitter.

Song has made his manager look prescient so far in the preseason. After a 3-for-4 day at the plate against the SSG Landers on Thursday, Song is batting .385 (5-for-13) with two runs scored this month.

Song said after the game that he wants to make the most of the opportunity he has been given.

“If I am not prepared for this role and if I don’t put up numbers, then I know I will be sent back to the bench,” Song said at Gocheok Sky Dome in Seoul. “I’ve been extra motivated to work hard for this season.”

Song has previously flashed some bat-to-ball skills in limited roles, while batting mostly in the bottom third of the order. He batted .313/.381/.502 in 78 games in 2018, and put up a 122.2 in weighted runs created plus (wRC+). A 100 wRC+ is league leverage, and Song was 22.2 percent better than KBO average that year.

In 103 games the following year, though, Song’s line nosedived to .227/.269/.328, with a wRC+ of 57.6. He fulfilled his mandatory military service and rejoined the Heroes in 2021, when he batted .249/.320/.371.

But Hong, who had long been a coach for the Heroes before taking over as manager last year, still saw enough potential in Song’s bat to put him in the No. 2 spot. It’s a particularly important place for the Heroes, with the reigning batting champion Lee Jung-hoo batting third and former National League All-Star Yasiel Puig handling cleanup duty behind Song.

Asked why he thought the manager made him the No. 2 hitter, Song quipped, “Maybe he didn’t trust me enough elsewhere in the lineup.”

“I’ve got to get stronger from the No. 2 spot, but I don’t feel any added pressure,” said Song, who has hit 17 home runs in 853 career at-bats. “Even if I don’t get on base, I know Jung-hoo is going to do his thing behind me.”

While home run-hitting big bats have been increasingly taking over the No. 2 spot in both the KBO and majors recently, Song may never grow into that mold. Instead, he said he wants to start driving the ball better all over the diamond. He has been putting some good swings in batting practices, but replicating those strokes in games has been a challenge.

“If I can take whatever I do in the cage into games more often, I’d be pretty happy with that,” Song said. “I haven’t played that many games since last fall. I am still getting used to facing pitchers in game situations.”

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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