American slugger feels 'zero frustration' over postseason benching

By Yonhap
  • Published : Oct 26, 2017 - 17:05
  • Updated : Oct 26, 2017 - 17:14

GWANGJU -- The two-time defending South Korean baseball champions Doosan Bears boast such a deep lineup that Nick Evans, who has hit 51 homers over the past two regular seasons, has often found himself on the bench in the ongoing postseason.

But the situation doesn't bother the slugger one bit, because the Bears are working on a four-game postseason winning streak.

"There's zero frustration on my part," Evans said Thursday before Game 2 of the Korean Series, the championship final in the Korea Baseball Organization, against the home team Kia Tigers at Gwangju-Kia Champions Field in Gwangju, 330 kilometers south of Seoul.

In this file photo taken Oct. 20, 2017, Nick Evans of the Doosan Bears goes down swinging against the NC Dinos with the bases loaded at the top of the sixth inning in Game 3 of their Korea Baseball Organization postseason series at Masan Stadium in Changwon, South Gyeongsang Province. (Yonhap)

Asked if the postseason hasn't gone the way he'd have liked because he wasn't playing much, the designated hitter said, "No, it's been playing out exactly how I wanted. The team is winning. That's all I care about."

Evans has enjoyed a productive regular season for the Bears. In 138 games, the 31-year-old American hit 27 home runs and drove in 90 runs.

In 2016, his first KBO season, Evans only appeared in 118 of the team's 144 games, but still had 24 homers with 81 RBIs while batting .308.

He also shone in the 2016 Korean Series, where the Bears swept the NC Dinos in four games to win their second straight championship. Evans batted 7-for-16 (.438) with a double, while starting all four games.

So far this postseason, Evans has lost playing time to fellow DH Choi Joo-hwan, who has responded to manager Kim Tae-hyung's faith with some games.

In the second round against the Dinos earlier this month, Evans got the starting nod in Game 1 on Oct. 17 but went 1-for-3 with two strikeouts, as the Dinos won handily 13-5. Choi took Evans' spot as the DH in Game 2 the next day, and hit a go-ahead grand slam to key an eight-run rally in the sixth inning, helping the Bears to a 17-7 victory.

Evans hasn't started a game since. Choi was back in the starting lineup for Game 3 last Friday, and went 1-for-3 with a run scored. The Bears won that game 14-3.

Evans came off the bench to pinch hit for Choi in the sixth inning, but struck out with the bases loaded. He grounded into a double play in his next time up in the seventh.

When the Bears finished off the Dinos with a 14-5 win in Game 4 last Saturday, Evans watched from the bench as Choi had two hits in four at-bats and scored once.

Neither player started in Game 1 of the Korean Series Wednesday, as starting catcher Yang Eui-ji, who has back issues, moved into the DH spot and his backup Park Sei-hyeok began the game behind the plate.

Choi made a pinch-hit appearance in the eighth but struck out. Evans remained on the bench in the Bears' 5-3 victory.

For the postseason, Evans is 1-for-5 with three strikeouts. Choi is 4-for-13 with a home run, four RBIs, two walks and four runs scored.

But Evans said he didn't care one bit about his personal statistics.

"As long as we win, I don't care what happens to me," he said. "That's what's fun about the playoffs. It's not about personal goals. It's about the team winning. As long as whoever is in the lineup is producing, they should continue to be in the lineup, in my opinion."

Evans said the uncertainty surrounding his playing status hasn't affected his pre-game preparations.

"I show up, and I get ready to play like I am starting," he said. "If I don't, I am ready to hit when they need me. It's pretty simple. If I am not playing, I will root for the guys to win the game."

Evans said he also saw no problem with Choi starting ahead of him, given his recent performances.

"If a guy that plays does well, he's going to play the next day," he added. "I don't think anybody should have a problem with that as long as the team is winning." (Yonhap)