KIA right-hander Jung Hae-young (21) joined the first team on the 1st. On the 2nd, he made his comeback game against Jamsil LG Electronics. However, it was not a save situation. Manager Kim Jong-kook has no immediate plans to use Jung as a closer again. He will consider both Jung’s physical condition and the situation in the KIA bullpen.
The closest thing to an actual closer on the KIA mound right now is Choi Ji-min (20). She’s already served as a temporary closer in a double-stopper format with Im Ki-young since Jung’s first-team expungement in late May. There is no one better suited for the job than Choi Ji-min in terms of delivery, velocity, changeup quality, poise, and mentality.
Coach Kim Jong-kook never told Choi Ji-min to be the closer, even when Jung Hae-young was not in the first team. It’s not that he doubts Choi’s 꽁머니사이트 qualities and potential. Rather, he was wary of the psychological burden of being publicly labeled the closer. He must have also considered Jung’s morale.
In the long run, the closing position needs to be handled carefully by Kim Jong-guk. Jung has plenty of experience and deserves a long run as a good finisher. However, based on this season alone, Choi Ji-min has been strong. Kim won’t make any major changes to the bullpen right away because he has a lot of faith in Choi and Lim Ki-young.
There is one thing that has been remarkable about Choi’s recent performance. From April 20 against Lotte to May 27 against LG Electronics, he went 17 consecutive games without allowing an earned run or walk. That’s why his ERA was zero in May. However, he gave up a run against Lotte on June 3, and then gave up runs in four of the first seven games of June, including that one.
In fact, the average ERA for the seven games from June 3 against Lotte to June 18 against NC was 5.40. However, from June 20 against Hanwha to June 1 against LG Electronics, he went five games without allowing an earned run. During this time, he recorded three multi-inning starts that exceeded one inning. Six innings, one hit, six walks and five strikeouts.
In fact, the start of the no-hitter, on June 20 against Hanwha, was not good. He gave up just three hits and was lucky not to get a run as the next pitcher walked the bases loaded. However, if we look at the last four games, we’re back to where we were in May. His ERA, which would eventually climb into the double digits, has dropped to 1.66. Choi Ji-min has had a sub-1 ERA since May 2 against Lotte.
On the day he earned the save, Jamsil LG Electronics recorded the first four outs of the eighth inning. He got left-hander Oh Ji-hwan to ground out to the shortstop with a slider that ran outside. In the ninth, he struck out Park Dong-won and Moon Bo-kyung with a changeup and slider, respectively. He walked Park Hae-min, but the pitch was clocked at 147-149. Eventually, he got power-hitting pinch-hitter Lee Jae-won in a power-to-pitch battle. He induced a 146-kilometer fastball into the left-field seats for the save.
Choi Ji-min naturally took closing lessons in Jung Hae-young’s absence. Kia fans can’t help but envision her as a full-time closer. The way she bounces back from bad spots is inspiring to watch. She is the best discovery in the KIA bullpen this year.