Jung Hae-young made his first-team comeback in the third game of the weekend’s three-game series against the LG Twins of the 2023 KBO League at Jamsil Stadium in Seoul on the 2nd. He took the mound in the bottom of the seventh inning with his team trailing 1-3 and retired leadoff hitter Shin Min-jae and the next two batters, Hong Chang-ki and Moon Sung-joo.
Shin, who has been making his presence felt as LG’s starting second baseman lately, showed three 145-72 km/h four-seam fastballs before inducing a ground ball with a forkball. Against Hong Chang-ki, he induced a false swing with an outside (left-handed) fastball on a 0-ball-2-strike count and then took away the timing with a body ball. Moon Sung-ju, who was ranked 10th in the league in batting average (.315) on the first day, induced a single with a forked ball after throwing four straight fastballs.
Jung has been out of the first-team roster for more than a month after pitching against LG Electronics on 28 May. His fastball has dropped to the mid-to-low 130 km/h range. Although he doesn’t normally throw fastballs over 150km/h, he had a good end to his pitches, which allowed him to attack the strike zone aggressively. As his strengths disappeared, his BABIP and FIP increased significantly, and Kim Jong-kook gave him time to work on his conditioning.
Jung Hae-young didn”t play for over a month after being dropped from the first team roster. There were even suspicions of injury. He made his comeback against the LG Future Team on 17 June, but showed a shaky performance against the Lotte Giants Future Team on 20-22 June, dropping two and four points respectively.
It was against the KT Wiz Future Team on the 30th that Jung made his first impression on the leaders of the 1-2 team. He started the game and pitched one inning of scoreless relief. Manager Kim Jong-kook said before the game against Jamsil LG, “His mechanics have definitely improved. We will decide when to call him up after checking his fastball and vertical movement records.” Eventually, he was called up on the second day of the three-game weekend series (two or more wins in three games).
KIA went 1-3 against LG on the 2nd. Even with the return of Na Sung-beom and Kim Do-young, their main hitters, they have struggled to get going. This is because the starting line-up struggles have led to an overloaded bullpen, and the team has struggled to keep the ball in play.
In this situation, Jung Hae-young made a good comeback. It’s encouraging to see that his fastball velocity has risen from the low-to-mid 140km/h range to the mid-90s, and he has shown strong command of his pitches to induce foul balls outside the zone.