Growing pains for 900 million dollar rookie, trust in commander still a “process to establish a starter”

Jang Jae-young (21-KIUM), a third-year right-hander, has recently been splitting time between the starting rotation and the bullpen. He has yet to establish himself as a starter, so he is going through an adjustment period.

Jang, a native of Deoksugo, joined Kiwoom with the first pick in the 2021 rookie draft. At the time, he attracted attention with a contract of 900 million won, the highest ever for a rookie in the club’s history and the second highest in the KBO.

However, Jang’s performance fell short of expectations. In his rookie season, he appeared in 19 games with a 1-0 record and a 9.17 ERA. The following year, he appeared in 14 games and posted a 7.71 ERA with no wins, no losses, no holds, and no saves.

After the 2022 season, Jang moved on to the Australian Baseball League (ABL) Geelong Korea, where he prepared for the next season with an attitude of desperation. After a stellar offseason, he was selected as a fifth starter for Kiwoom.

In the past two seasons, Jang had started only two games, but Kiwoom head coach Hong Won-ki was confident enough in Jang’s potential to include him in the starting lineup.

Jang struggled to establish himself in the starting lineup early in the season. Starting with his first start of the season on April 6 against LG Electronics, Jang lost two consecutive games and spent the next two months making adjustments in the second team. He returned to the starting mound on June 4 against SSG, but his pitch count was limited to around 60 pitches.

Gradually increasing his pitch count, Jang earned an emotional debut win against NC on July 5. He pitched 5⅓ innings of two-hit ball with four walks and seven strikeouts to lead his team to a 2-0 victory. It was his first win in seven games this season.

Jang Jae-young seemed to be gradually establishing himself as a starter. However, after five days of rest, he moved to the bullpen on July 11 against KT. He took the mound in the top of the eighth inning, trailing 1-4, and pitched an inning of scoreless relief. It was Jang’s first relief appearance this season.

“The bullpen has been weak lately, so Jang Jae-young can be utilized more,” Hong said at the time. “The starting pitchers are doing their job right now, so there will be variability in the second half.” “Ahn Woo-jin also went through the middle and closing process. It would have been a good experience for Jang Jae-young as well.” Jang finished the first half with one more relief appearance on July 13 against KT (three innings, three runs).

After the start of the second half, Jang made another start on July 25 against Hanwha, where he pitched five innings and allowed three runs.

However, on July 30 against Samsung Electronics, he was pulled early after giving up six runs in just ⅔ of an inning. Although he only gave up one hit, he gave up a whopping six wild pitches, including a head shot to Kim Ji-chan’s head with the bases loaded in the second inning.

Jang was moved back to the bullpen, where he made two relief appearances to regain his composure. He pitched well on both the 1st (1 inning of scoreless relief) and 2nd (⅔ inning of scoreless relief) against LG.

The final game of the three-game series against LG in the 2023 Shinhan Bank SOL KBO League was played at Jamsil Stadium in Seoul on March 3. Before the game, Hong explained the recent use of Jang Jae-young.스포츠토토

“We used Jang Jae-young as a relief pitcher with the concept of readjustment after the Samsung Electronics game on the 30th of last month,” Hong explained. “He had a few strikeouts, but he didn’t look too shaky,” he said.

Jang Jae-young is gaining experience in both the starting rotation and the bullpen. “He prepared for the season as a starting pitcher and came to the first team through readjustment,” Hong said. “Throwing three or four innings and gradually increasing the number of pitches was a process for Jang to settle down as a starting pitcher.” “I hope that such a valuable process will not be in vain, and I think he will continue to improve.”

Jang is scheduled to return to the mound against NC on May 5. “I don’t know if he’ll be able to pitch long innings, but he should be fine,” Hong said.

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