SSG knows, Lotte will use this player… 2 inning perfect ‘alive’ in Japan’s first team.

SSG will face Lotte in the 2024 home opener on March 23 at SSG Landers Field in Incheon. The opening game will be played between the first through fifth-place teams from the previous year, who will have home-field advantage. Based on that, the rest of the bracket will be finalized. There is a certain amount of box office factor. The opening series between SSG and Lotte is said to be a result of the distribution rivalry.

After Lotte was confirmed as the opening series opponent, the general consensus within SSG was that Aaron Wilkerson (35) would be the opening day starter. It’s not that Lotte has a new foreigner in the starting rotation. In fact, there is a certain amount of power analysis no matter who comes in. However, Wilkerson is arguably the trickiest pitcher in the SSG. In three games against SSG last year, Wilkerson went 1-0 with a 1.45 ERA in 18⅔ innings pitched.

That’s why it’s not unreasonable to expect Wilkerson, who has been strong at SSG, to start if healthy. And Wilkerson has shown that he’s inching closer to the honor of starting on Opening Day. He pitched well against the Chiba Lotte of Nippon Professional Baseball. He confirmed that he is in good shape. Now, it’s just a matter of getting in shape.

Wilkerson started the exhibition game against Chiba Lotte at Itoman Nishizaki Stadium in Okinawa Prefecture, Japan, on Thursday and pitched two innings of one-hit, one-strikeout, no-run ball. The game was billed as a scrimmage between the Korean and Japanese “sibling clubs,” and both Lotte and Chiba Lotte used it as a serious test, fielding a number of key players. Wilkerson’s performance was enough to raise expectations for the season.

The fact that he was able to start in a scrimmage is a sign of his fitness. It’s not uncommon for potential Opening Day starters to start this time of year with two innings in a scrimmage, then work their way up to five or six innings in an exhibition game. Wilkerson is following a typical course. On this day, Wilkerson was economical with his pitches, throwing 26 pitches in two scoreless innings. He was scheduled to throw up to 40 pitches, but never got close.

His four-seam fastball (10 pitches) topped out at a healthy 144 mph. He also threw a cut fastball (9 pitches) that topped out at 141 mph, indicating that he prioritized his fastball. This suggests that he prioritized conditioning. His offspeed pitches included a mix of curveballs (three) that touched 124 mph, a slider (two) that touched 131 mph, and a changeup (two) that touched 134 mph. He utilized all of his pitches to develop his feel for them.

His pitches were steady, with little movement and good location. There weren’t a lot of hard hits, so it was a steady pitch. Considering that the Chiba Lotte lineup was pretty stacked, Wilkerson’s performance was worthy of a passing grade.

Wilkerson joined Lotte as a substitute foreign player last year and quickly won the hearts of the organization and fans with his steady pitching. In 13 games last season, he went 7-2 with a 2.26 ERA in 79⅔ innings pitched. While he’s not a fireballer, he succeeded with a combination of reliability and a repertoire of pitches and locations that are rarely seen in the KBO. Most importantly, his innings pitched well. In 11 of his 13 starts, he had a quality start (six or more innings or three earned runs or less). Now that he’s acclimated to the KBO and has a calmer body, he’s expected to do even better this year.

Despite Wilkerson’s strong performance, Lotte lost the game 3-7. After giving up a run in the third inning, Lotte answered right back in the bottom of the inning. Park Seung-wook advanced to third on a wild pitch with two outs and then stole second on a double by Reyes, allowing Song to score from second.

They gave up a run again in the fourth inning, but tied the game in the bottom of the fourth on a solo home run to right field by Reyes, the new foreign-born hitter. It was a close call. Lotte tied the game at 2-2 in the top of the sixth inning on Reyes’ double to right field and Han Dong-hee’s RBI single two batters later.

However, they lost the late-game power battle. A four-run seventh inning put the game out of reach, and a single run in the eighth made things difficult. The offense, on the other hand, was unable to capitalize on the opposing mound. The game ended with the offense unable to overcome the four-run deficit.

On the mound, Wilkerson pitched two scoreless innings, while veteran bullpen arms Jin Hae-soo and Sang-soo Kim pitched one scoreless inning. Jin-hyung Park pitched ⅔ of an inning and Won-joong Kim pitched one scoreless inning. Na Gyun-an, who has been 안전놀이터 behind Wilkerson in the starting rotation, has shown promise this season with his velocity up to 147 mph, while rookie Jeon Mirrors has also shown promise with his fastball up to 146 mph. Choi Jun-yong threw his fastball up to 149 mph in the early innings of a practice game.

In the batting lineup, newcomer Reyes raised expectations for the season by going 2-for-3 with one home run and one RBI, including a grand slam in the fourth inning. Na Seung-yeop, a promising youngster who joined the team after his discharge from the army, also had two hits and caught the eye of manager Kim Tae-hyung. The desperate Han Dong-hee had one hit and one RBI, while Kim Min-seok and Hwang Sung-bin also had one hit apiece.

Lotte will also play a practice match against Chiba Lotte on the 25th. It will be held at the same venue. This game is expected to be a bigger deal in Japan. That”s because the monster of the Reiwa era, Roki Sasaki (Chiba Lotte), will be on the mound. Sasaki is one of the biggest stars in Nippon Professional Baseball and is considered a top talent. Major League scouts are eagerly awaiting his arrival.

He was raised by Lotte Chiba. In his rookie season, he spent most of his time training instead of playing, and in his second year, he started to play more and more, systematically increasing his innings. It paid off last year. He set a new Nippon Professional Baseball record for fastball velocity of up to 164 kilometers and threw a perfect game. However, injuries prevented him from pitching regular innings, and he was criticized by fans after the season for his insistence on going to the major leagues. In fact, Sasaki was one of the last players in Nippon Professional Baseball to sign a contract, which generated a lot of offseason buzz.

However, Sasaki has set his sights on this season as a chance to change public opinion and prove his major league worthiness. That’s why his start against Lotte is so important, and why you can expect to see a lot of Japanese interest in the game. Lotte will be countered by Park Se-woong.

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