KIA Tigers closer Jung Hae-young travels to Hampyeong to rebound. After falling into the biggest slump of his four-year career, Jung Hae-young has begun a rebuilding process to get back to the closer’s spot. Future team manager Son Seung-rac, a former legendary closer who recorded 271 saves in his career, offered words of encouragement.
After earning a spot on the first team in his rookie season in 2020, Jeong became the closer in 2021, becoming the Tigers’ first and youngest player in the KBO to record 30 saves in back-to-back seasons with 34 saves in 2021 and 32 saves in 2022.
On pace to reach 30 saves for the third consecutive year, Jeong fell into a slump early in the season due to poor command. In 20 games (18.1 innings) this season, Jung has a 3-1 record with six saves and a 3.44 ERA. While these numbers don’t look bad on the surface, Jung saw his WHIP rise to 1.58, while his strikeout-to-walk ratio of 4.42 per nine innings was the worst of his career.
The decline in velocity has been particularly troubling. Jung saw his average fastball velocity drop to 141.1 mph this season. Compare that to his average fastball velocity in 2021 (144 km/h) and 2022 (144.6 km/h), and the decline is staggering.
Eventually, Kia manager Kim Jong-kook, who had faith in Jeong through April and May, made a decision. On May 29, Kia removed Jung from the first team roster.
After making the decision, Kim said, “I tried putting him on the mound in a relaxed situation, but he didn’t show any signs of picking up his pace. I decided that he needed more training, so I decided to send him to the second team.” “For the first week, I plan to do balance exercises and bullpen pitches. Next week, I’ll start pitching in Futures League games. I will go through the process of checking my pitches and commands to a certain extent, and only when I confirm that I have fully recovered will I be promoted to the first team.”
When we visited the Hampyeong Future Team on June 1, Jeong was training with teammate Jeon Sang-hyun in the reserve team, not the Future Team, as Kim said.
Future team coach Son Seung-rac said, “Currently, Jung Hae-young and Jeon Sang-hyun are training with the Residual Army. The players I’m most interested in communicating with directly are Kim Ki-hoon and Anderson.”
“Anderson is asking me a lot of questions. He wants to know how I throw my cutter. Even when I was playing, I always took care of foreign players who looked lonely in other countries. I talk to Anderson often and try to help him with his pitching. We’ll take a closer look at the Hawkeye data and discuss solutions together.”
As for Jeong, he will join the Futures League squad after a week of residual training, at which point Son Seung-rak will be called upon.
Son, who was one of the league’s leading closers for many years during his active career, offered his sympathies to Jeong, who has carried a heavy burden from a young age.
“It’s not easy to be a closer. I think she has a great mentality to be able to play the role of a closer consistently. It’s great that she’s been the closer for three years. She’s done really well. I think the hard times she’s going through now will be good for her growth in the future. I want her to think that things don’t just come to her. If you think it’s coming to you for a reason, you’ll have the strength to stay positive.” Sohn said.스포츠토토
If she can overcome her current struggles, she will be able to develop into a more powerful closer. After all, she is still young, having been born in 2001, just four years into her career. The team needs to give her more encouragement and support as she has been carrying the heavy burden of closing for the last three years.