Sun. Oct 1st, 2023

Kim Ki-joong (21), a left-handed prospect in his third year at Hanwha, prepares to change his position to the bullpen for the new season. Hanwha, which lacks a left-handed bullpen, can diversify its bullpen card if Kim Ki-joong secures a spot in the first team. 

On the 2nd, Hanwha Futures coach Choi Won-ho, who is conducting training in Seosan ahead of the spring camp departure for Kochi, Japan on the 8th, said, “Kim Ki-joong will prepare with the bullpen this year. There is a shortage of left-handed bullpens in the first team, and it was a decision made at the club level.” 

After graduating from Yushin High School, Kim Ki-joong, who joined Hanwha as the 2nd overall pick in the 2nd round in 2021, has been training as a starting prospect for two years. In the first year of his debut in 2021, he showed competitiveness and potential in the first team with an average ERA of 4.70 with 2 wins and 4 losses in 15 games 안전놀이터 (53⅔ innings). 

Last year, he was dropped as a starting candidate during the spring camp, but was downgraded to the second group due to balance problems caused by arm pain in the demonstration game. He only had an ERA of 6.00 in 5 games (12 innings) and 2 losses in the first pitch, but in the Futures League, he played 4 wins and 1 loss with an average ERA of 3.54 in 14 games (68⅔ innings). He steadily digested the starting rotation, and in October, he also participated in the U-23 Baseball World Cup held in Taiwan. He pitched well in 3 games, 9 innings, 10 strikeouts and 1 run, going back and forth between the start and the middle. 

In his third year, he is now taking on a new challenge as a bullpen rather than a starter. Among the 22 pitchers in the first team spring camp, Hanwha has only two lefties, Jung Woo-ram and Kim Beom-soo. Due to team circumstances, one or two more left-handed bullpens are needed. As it is one of the core tasks of Futures Camp, if Kim Ki-joong fills the spot by nurturing a left-handed bullpen, the overall composition and picture of the Hanwha mound will be fine. 

Kim Ki-joong said, “After joining the pros, I only selected for two years. He thinks it is a good way to try a change, although the game management and thinking are focused on the starting side. “I have to find a seat because there is no place for me,” he said. “Coach Jeong-jin Park also tells me a lot about how to pitch every inning in the bullpen and his mindset, which is different from starting.” Coach Park Jeong-jin, a left-handed overhand pitcher whose main weapon was a sharp slider, played an active role as the ace of the Hanwha left-handed bullpen in the 2010s. He went 45-43 with 35 saves and 96 holds with a 4.55 earned run average in 691 games over 16 seasons. 

It was somewhat surprising that he was excluded from the first-team camp, but Kim Ki-joong was not discouraged. He said, “I didn’t show too much last year. There is no fixed place for me. I felt sorry when I said I couldn’t go (to the camp), but I think that condition during the season is more important. I will prepare well from now on so that I can join the first team in the best condition.” 

During the off-season, he received intensive personal training as a member of the mini camp led by Jaehoon Choi in Daejeon. “At first, it was difficult because I was doing sports that I hadn’t done before. On the first day, it wasn’t so crazy that I threw up,” he said with a laugh. “It was fun to relieve fatigue with a sauna and a cold bath after exercise. After doing that, I wanted to exercise more. The more I continued, the better I felt. My stamina has improved, and my physical condition is good now. With the goal of maintaining perfect condition for a year, I will do my best in any position given the opportunity.

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