Was it really that hard?
KIA Tigers Jeong Hae-young overcame the ordeal and harvested a valuable save. In the Gwangju game against the Samsung Lions on the 12th, he took the mound with 240,000 bases in the top of the 9th inning, which was behind 3-2, and led a batter to an infield grounder in 2 pitches and kept the victory. It was the first save in 46 days since the LG Twins match on May 27th.안전놀이터
The finish line was not originally scheduled. It was an emergency mound when Jang Hyun-sik suddenly faltered causing a bases loaded crisis in the 9th inning. After the match, Jung Hae-young said, “I was really nervous,” and made an emotional expression. His voice trembled, and his eyes were slightly reddened, as if the afterglow of that tension remained.
There were so many ups and downs. At the 2nd spring camp in Okinawa last February, Jung Hae-young sighed, “Strangely, my pitch doesn’t rise.” It was a speed that did not reach 140 km even in an external practice game. It was not Jung Hae-young, who once threw up to 150 km and averaged 145 km. He never regained the strength of his signature fastball, which earned him 30 saves for the second year in a row.
I sent a trial game, but it was the same. Coach Kim Jong-guk was also worried and showed firm trust as a finishing pitcher, saying, “I will come back when it starts.” However, there was no change even after the opening. Hitters came in just for the fastball. In the early stages of the opening season, his batting average, hit ratio, and on-base ratio increased, and he made a blown save.
Jung Hae-young pitches vigorously at the Samsung match in Gwangju on the 12th./ Courtesy of the KIA Tigers
Still, as a finish for two consecutive years, he endured by recording 11 consecutive scoreless games. However, in the game against Samsung in Gwangju on May 17, he was shaken by only holding one out and conceding three runs. On May 24, against Hanwha in Daejeon, he hit a home run and earned a lot of saves. His speed seemed to increase, but then lowered again, and the number of regular hits was still the same. Finally, on May 28, coach Kim decided to cancel the entry to recover his position.
It was a very difficult situation both physically and mentally. His 30-save pitcher for the second consecutive year suddenly lost his pitch, so he was the most disappointed and impatient. The burden on his heart was even greater because the surroundings and concerned eyes were pouring out. Another unfortunate thing happened. He was not included in the final list of representatives for the Hangzhou Asian Games, which he had hoped for all along.
Jeong Hae-young, who achieved a save in 46 days, celebrates the victory with his teammates./ Courtesy of the KIA Tigers
“I thought this year was the most important year of my baseball life. It was a little disappointing, but it’s because I couldn’t do it. I thought it was fate and accepted it,” he said. He moved to the rehabilitation group and trained his lower body for 20 days with coach Seo Jae-eung (currently the first team pitching coach). He moved to the Futures team to check the game and also received advice from coach Son Seung-rak.
Coach Sohn and Coach Seo both pointed out the problem of upper body-oriented pitching. He was obsessed with lower body training. “Before the lower body went out, the upper body went out first, so I only threw with my arms. I couldn’t use my body, so I couldn’t get speed. I put my upper body behind and did lower body balance exercises. Power exercises like weights were also very helpful,” he explained.
His pitch started to improve in actual matches, and he was called up on July 2nd. With no finishing pressure, he made an overhaul by appearing in three games. He recorded an average speed of over 145 km and showed off his sophisticated control. He also increased the rate of use of breaking balls such as forks and sliders. Director Kim also announced that he would restore the finish, saying, “My pitch is improving. I will be placed at the back soon.”
Lastly, “I don’t know the power analysis data yet, but the ball’s going faster than before. It was said that the rotation of the ball has become faster. I throw a lot of breaking balls, but the opponent has analyzed a lot, so I have to change my pattern too. The style of pushing with a fastball. Even after that, sometimes you have to lure the hitter with a breaking ball. Now you have to do well. If you put it up, I will stop it.