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Who will be the final winner of Samsung's fifth audition.

The Samsung Lions, led by head coach Park Jin-man, are in a spring camp in Okinawa, Japan.

One of Samsung's biggest challenges in the spring camp is finding the fifth starter. This is Samsung's biggest challenge, which has continued since last season. One of its weaknesses last season was strengthening the bullpen, by staying in the "House Rabbit" by Oh Seung-hwan and Kim Dae-woo, by recruiting free agents Lee Min-ho and Kim Jae-yoon and Lim Chang-min, and by nominating Choi Sung-hoon and Yang Hyun in the second draft.

There are four candidates for the fifth starting pitcher. Hwang Dong-jae and Choi Chae-heung, who were also candidates for the fifth starting pitcher last season, Lee Ho-seong, a promising second-year starting pitcher, and Lee Seung-hyun, who is seeking to become a starting pitcher in the bullpen. Choi Chae-heung, Hwang Dong-jae and Lee Seung-hyeon were drafted first and Lee Ho-seong was drafted in the first round. All of them were Samsung's pitchers with high expectations.

Choi Chae-heung, a former first-round pick in 2018, won 11 games and lost six with a 3.58 ERA in the 2020 season, securing his first double-digit win. After being discharged from the military in the middle of last season, he was expected to secure the fifth starting position of Samsung, but posted the lowest performance since his debut with one win, seven losses and a 6.68 ERA in 15 games.

Hwang Dong-jae, a former first-round pick in 2020, has always had high expectations as a starting candidate, but has not performed as well as expected. He has played in 24 games in the first division so far, but has posted one win, eight losses and an earned run average of 7.70. He has posted seven wins, six losses and one hold of an earned run average of 3.25 in 26 games in the Futures League.

Lee Seung-hyun was a former first pick in 2021. He played as a bullpen pitcher for three seasons from his debut season to last season. He played 147 games, recording 4 wins, 13 losses, 6 saves, 28 holds, and an earned run average of 4.90. In the 2022 season, he had high expectations as he posted a double-digit hold for the first time since his debut, and took the role of temporary closing pitcher when Oh Seung-hwan was shaken up last season. After the end of last season, he moved to Australia to take starting classes, and displayed better-than-expected performance.

Lee Ho-seong, who was ranking eighth in the first round of 2022, is a pitcher that Samsung is aiming to raise as a starting pitcher in the long run. He constantly received starting lessons for the Futures team last season. He displayed his first starting win in Suwon KT Wiz on October 6, allowing four hits (one homer) and six strikeouts and one run in five games. He is evaluated for his strong metal, stable ball control, and high quality of breaking balls.

The above four players have appeared in each of the practice matches Samsung has played so far. Lee and Choi came out in the match against Nippon-Ham Fighters on Sunday. Lee, who started the match, had one hit, two strikeouts, and three walks in 2.1 innings. Following Lee's lead, Choi gave up four hits, four strikeouts, and four runs (two earned) in two innings. Hwang Dong-jae, who started the match against the Chunichi Dragons on Sunday, showed poor performance as he allowed two hits, four walks, and five runs in one inning.

Lee Ho-seong did well. He allowed three hits, two walks, one strikeout and one run in two innings against the Chiba Lotte Giants on Tuesday local time. "Although I am not satisfied, I think the command and location went well for the first time," Lee said.

Of course, he has played in his first game of practice. It is a process of stretching his body. He just needs to show off his strengths in his second and third appearances. However, if he fails to show his performance even then, he will inevitably fall behind in the competition.

In addition to the new foreign duo, native ace Won Tae-in and veteran left-hander Baek Jung-hyun will be selected as the fourth starters. The last five starters, one or two more additional starters need to prepare for unexpected situations.

Who will be chosen by Park Jin-man.
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Thursday, February 15, 2024
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