Great Pitcher Yang Hyun-jong and “Dae” Hyeong-jun also failed the bullpen…Was it a fill-up of course.
The winning move of ‘Lee Kang-chul’, who set sail for the semifinals of the 2023 World Baseball Classic (WBC), was to destroy his position. The plan was to select 10 out of 15 pitchers as starting pitchers and put them in the right place regardless of their positions. Among them, Kim Kwang-hyun (SSG) and Yang Hyun-jong (KIA), representative left-handed ace duo in the KBO League, were also classified as bullpen resources. The decision was made because Lee Kang-chul, who is called a genius in mound management, took the helm.
However, Lee’s strategy of fighting has been creaky from the first game. Against Australia, which was a watershed for advancing to the quarterfinals on the 9th, So Hyung-joon (KT) and Yang Hyun-jong (KIA), who put them in the middle, collapsed one after another. Cho Hyung-joon, who was a former Rookie of the Year in 2020 and was trusted by his teacher Lee in his team KT and showed strong performance in big games, has been a starter since his debut. Yang Hyun-jong, a “great pitcher” who ranked third in most wins by harvesting 159 career wins, is also a veteran with all routines set to start.
However, as soon as they went up to the mound as intermediate pitchers as if they had made a promise, the two showed signs of confusion. So Hyung-joon went out in the top of the seventh inning with a 4-2 lead and gave up a hit to leadoff hitter Robbie Perkins, and was hit by a heavy hit by follow-up Ulrich Boyarski. After giving a sacrifice bunt to No. 1 team Kenneli at first and second bases with no outs, he handed the ball over to Kim Won-joong (Lotte). However, Kim Won-joong gave up a come-from-behind three-run run to Robbie Glendining.
Yang Hyun-jong’s bullpen card also failed. Yang Hyun-jong, who took the mound after one out in the top of the eighth inning, was also hit hard against the lower batting order. After hitting back-to-back hits by No. 6 Rickson Wengrove and No. 7 Logan Wade, he even allowed a three-run homer to No. 8 Robbie Perkins.
Of course, it is a result, but Lee’s winning move resulted in a major failure. In addition, the competition rule that one pitcher must deal with at least three batters has also been hampered. As soon as So Hyung-joon and Yang Hyun-jong took the mound, they had no choice but to lead them without being able to change immediately due to this regulation even though their control or pitching was not good.
Initially, concerns that starting pitchers’ bullpen input is at high risk have also become a reality. When Kim Kwang-hyun, the ace of the national team, called up for training in Arizona, the U.S., he said, “I started most of my career,” adding, “It is true that it is a little burdensome.” Starting pitchers usually have a long toss before taking the mound, and their routines before taking the mound are different from relief pitchers, and their bodies are relatively slow to warm up.
Of course, there are many reasons why coach Lee has no choice but to take out the card to destroy his position. Closer Ko Woo-suk (LG) complained of muscle pain in the neck, making it impossible to make a normal appearance. In addition, unlike certain starting pitchers such as Seo Jae-eung, Bong Joong-geun, and Ryu Hyun-jin (Toronto), like the first and second WBC tournaments, this national team showed no overwhelming ace. Therefore, the starting pitcher was revealed leisurely before the game and was released after the entry submission time.
Nevertheless, the timing of the replacement of So Hyung-joon remains a disappointing point. Critics point out that since it was an unconditional game to catch, he should have used a professional must-win bullpen Jung Woo-young (LG) instead of thinking about next time.