BUSAN, South Korea – Yes, it is hard to believe, but it is almost baseball season again. And if the Lotte Giants hope to contend in 2012, they are going to have to deal with the likes of last year's champions, the Samsung Lions, the much improved Hanwha Eagles and their familiar foes, the SK Wyverns. Lotte has had a busy offseason, most notably with the loss of slugger Lee Dae-ho to the Orix Buffaloes of the Nippon Professional Baseball League, but they have been making moves on what has been considered their weakness for the past few years – the pitching staff.
Lotte’s goals seem clear – hope that the offensive output doesn’t take a major downturn, improve the pitching staff in hopes of not having to score as many runs, having the ability to win the close games, and keeping the bullpen from blowing big leads like in years past. Otherwise, it could be a long season for the rabid Lotte fan base, who are dying for a KBO title.
More good news for Lotte is the return of starter Ryan Sadowski. The familiar #94 is heading into his third season at Sajik, and he brings a consistent, veteran presence to the locker room. Sadowski, along with veteran Song Seung-joon, bring a wealth of talent and experience and when at their best, can dominate games from the mound.
I caught up with the recently re-signed right-hander about his thoughts on the new season, the new additions to the club, and Lotte’s chances for the 2012 season.
It was a tough decision this offseason. It was difficult to turn down the opportunity that presented itself in the States, but it would've been harder to turn down another year in Busan.
How did you spend your offseason? Are you planning on adding any new pitches to your repertoire, or any new surprises for 2012?
I've been spending my entire offseason weight training. I've currently added 8 kg and looking for a few more. I'll also be working this offseason to improve my change-up.
How do you think the team's offseason moves (the addition of Shane Youman, Jeong Dae-hyeon and Lee Seung-ho) will help the pitching staff this year?
Adding Jeong Dae-hyeon and Lee Seung-ho should really improve our bullpen. I actually don't know Shane Youman, but it would be awesome if he could fill the hole left by Jang Won-jun.
I was in AAA in 2008 when the San Francisco Giants lost Barry Bonds, and the offense really struggled. We are going to need to get the power production from Hong Song-heun that we had in 2010, as well as the outstanding offensive output from our 1, 2, and 3 hole hitters that we had last season.
What do you think are going to be the biggest changes with the club this year?
Our bullpen should be much stronger. Adding Lee Seung-ho and Jeong Dae-hyeon should make a big difference.
What's your goal for this season?
I want to win a championship. I haven't been a part of a championship team since 2005.
Any predictions on how the season will turn out?
Predictions are for the media, and they are usually ridiculous. If I could predict the future, I doubt I'd be playing baseball….or working in the media.
What do you think about the signings of Park Chan-ho and Kim Tae-gyun with Hanwha? Are they the team to beat this year, or is it still Samsung?
Park Chan-Ho is a baseball legend. With the exception of last year, his entire professional career was in the U.S. and I would imagine things are going to be a bit surreal for him this year. I'm excited he's going to be in the KBO. I have never seen Kim Tae-gyun play, so I can't really comment on his impact.
I would still consider Samsung the team to beat. They had the best pitching last year. They had the MVP Choi Hyung-woo, and they have added Lee Seung-yeop from Japan.
I will start training camp in Kagoshima, Japan the first week of February and should be back in Korea around March 1st.
Are you going to get back into blogging again this year?
I'd like to do something, but I haven't come up with anything creative or fun yet. Maybe we should follow Babo Hong all day and show you how crazy the life of a translator is. He's really the only one who understands everything from both sides.
Ryan Sadowski By the Numbers
2011 Lotte Giants – 11-8, 3.91 ERA, 79 K's
2010 Lotte Giants – 10-8, 3.87 ERA, 120 K's
2009 San Francisco Giants – 2-4, 4.45 ERA, 17 K's
You can read more about Ryan Sadowski in his 2011 end of season interview here.