“There’s no reason for me to be here (in the first team).”
The Hanwha Eagles made one change to their lineup for the 13th meeting between the teams in the 2023 Shinhan Bank SOL KBO League against the Samsung Lions at Hanwha Life Eagles Park in Daejeon on Wednesday. Ha Ju-seok was sent to the second team. Instead, Kwon Kwang-min was called up and joined the squad.
Coach Choi Won-ho decided that Ha was not fit to play. Last November, Ha was caught driving under the influence of alcohol and received a 70-game suspension from the KBO. Ha had been working on his personal training, but even after his return, he struggled to regain his physical condition.
The long absence from the game hasn’t allowed him to get back on track, and in his absence, Lee Do-yoon has stepped up to the plate. Lee, who was drafted by Hanwha with the 24th overall pick in the 2015 second round after graduating from Bukil High School, has been a force in the offense. In 66 games this season, he is batting .292 with 54 hits, one home run, 10 RBIs, a .342 slugging percentage and a .720 on-base percentage (OPS). In his last 10 games, he has been at his best, going 15-for-33 with one home run, four doubles and a .455 on-base percentage.
Ha has been Hanwha’s “go-to” shortstop, but his spot is now gone. Aside from Lee Do-yoon, who is currently playing, Ha Joo-seok’s name alone isn’t enough to get him into the lineup. Ha was used as a pinch-hitter or a substitute late in games, but he didn’t inspire confidence in his manager. In particular, he made crucial mistakes in defense that led to defeat.
Ha’s mistake against Samsung Electronics in Daejeon on April 22 was a key factor in the loss. In the top of the ninth inning with the score 2-1, Hanwha pitcher Park Sang-won induced an infield grounder to Samsung’s Ryu Ji-hyuk. Ha Joo-seok rushed to make the catch, but failed to make the catch. It was a critical error in a potentially game-ending situation, and Hanwha gave up four more runs, eventually losing 3-5.
After a disappointing performance, Ha Joo-seok was called up to Seosan. Coach Choi Won-ho commented on Ha’s move to the second team, saying, “I called him up after receiving a report 스포츠토토 that his defense was good in the Futures League. But if he plays like he did yesterday (Nov. 22), I can’t send him out. It’s hard for the player, it’s hard for the manager, and there’s no reason for him to be here (in the first team) if he’s playing like this,” he explained.
He added, “Ha can’t even go to the defense right now. We will continue to let him play in the second team.” There are no immediate plans to call him up. “There will be a time when we need him in the first team. But at that point, he has to be playing well in the Futures League. If not, it’s difficult to call him up,” Choi said.
Hanwha embarked on a full-scale rebuild in 2021. At the time, the team released a number of veteran players to thin its depth, so some players were guaranteed a starting spot even if they made mistakes or performed poorly. But things are different now, and we have the resources to replace them. If you don’t perform on the field, you don’t get a starting spot.