‘Get Jang Jae-young’s mentality’ manager-coach also takes off his shoes→First win in 820 days ‘pays off’

“In a way, it’s not a big deal, but I was so bad before that…”

This is what Jang Jae-young (21), a right-handed pitcher for the Kiwoom Heroes, said on the team’s YouTube channel about his first win. However, the unremarkable record made everyone in Kiwoom rejoice in unison, and for good reason.

Jang Jae-young started the 2023 Shinhan Bank SOL KBO League regular-season home game against the NC Dinos at the Gocheok Sky Dome in Seoul on Friday and pitched 5⅓ innings of two-hit ball with four walks and seven strikeouts to lead Kiwoom to a 2-0 victory.

His pitching featured his signature fastball. On the day, Jang threw the most pitches in a single game in his career. He threw a total of 92 pitches, including a four-seam fastball (70), slider (15), and curveball (7) that reached a maximum speed of 154 kilometers per hour, breaking his personal records for most innings pitched and strikeouts in a single game.

It was his first win of the season in 820 days since April 6, 2021, against the Gocheok KIA Tigers. Jang Jae-young, a graduate of Galsancho, Shinwoljung, and Deoksugo, joined Kiwoom with the first pick in the 2021 Rookie Draft. His fastball in the mid-150 kilometers per hour and curveball with a big drop attracted interest from major league teams, but he had more growing pains than expected.

His pitches were a problem. Through 33 games last year, he had an 8.53 ERA, and in 31⅔ innings pitched, he walked more batters than innings pitched, with 35 (31 walks and four hit batters). But Ki was not about to give up easily. Jang Jae-young struck out almost as many batters (33) as he walked in the same period. In training, he threw pitches so powerful that even his coaching staff, which included former professional players, called them “deadly”.

The club believed it was more of a psychological issue than a pitching mechanics problem. Since the 2021 offseason camp, Song Shin-young (47), then the first-team pitching coach, has been working on Jang Jae-young’s mental health through one-on-one sessions. Head coach Hong Won-ki (50), who is a first-class psychological counselor, gave Jang more positive words than negative ones. Two-hitters Ahn Woo-jin (24) and Lee Jung-hoo (25) became Jang’s mentors.

Their hard work over the past year blossomed into an experience at Geelong Korea in Australia last winter. Kiung was offered a two-hitting job while in Geelong, and Jang, who had only ever wanted to succeed as a pitcher, got to see what his ball could look like at the plate. The sight of foreign batters coming at him aggressively also helped him gain confidence in his pitches.

After such a confident start, the beginning of the 2023 season didn’t look much different. In his first two April starts, he walked five and was sent down to the Futures League. He didn’t give up. In June, after a steady stream of starts in the Futures League, he was called back up and the results started to show on the mound.

His pitches weren’t powerful or impactful – he went three innings and focused more on his changeup than his 155 mph fastball. However, his strikeouts dropped significantly to one or two per game, and his innings gradually increased. On March 23 against the Gochuk Doosan Bears, he pitched five innings and one run for the first time in his career. Just one step away from his first win. The opposing pitcher was Eric Pedi, 30, who is considered an ace in the league with an 11-1 record and a 1.61 ERA in 13 games. He was a tough matchup to beat, but Pedi was just as good, and kept the game close.

After striking out the side in the first inning, Jang got into trouble in the second when he gave up a single to Kwon Hee-dong and a walk to Jason Martin. That’s when he started to look different. Mixing in a slider in the low 130s, he struck out Yoon Hyung-joon on a wild pitch and then induced two consecutive wild pitches from Jae-hwan Lee. Against Park Se-hyuk, he worked the strike count with just his fastball, but then got a four-pitch curveball that dropped toward his body for a groundout.

There was also some defensive help. With the bases loaded in the third inning after a walk to Kim Joo-won and a single to Son As-seob, Jang Jae-young instinctively caught Seo Ho-chul’s grounder coming toward him. The throw to second base sailed wide and could have been a double play, but second baseman Kim Hye-sung made the catch for the save. Against Park Min-woo, he got a strike with a fastball and then induced a swinging strike with a changeup (slider) that fell away from his body to end the inning, just as he did against Park Se-hyuk in the second inning.메이저사이트

From there, it was smooth sailing. Kim Woong-bin doubled in the fourth and Jang Jae-young struck out another trio in the fifth to earn his first win. Yang Hyun (1⅔ innings), Kim Jae-woong (1 inning), and Lim Chang-min (1 inning) followed him off the mound in the sixth, and Jang secured his first win. The Kiwoom dugout stared at Jang Jae-young as the ninth inning counted down. During the postgame interviews, the players seemed to be in a daze, which is not typical of a team that has celebrated so many times. They knew Jang Jae-young’s hard work for the first win, so they were more sincere in their congratulations than anyone else.

Jang Jae-young must have known how his teammates felt. After the game, he said on the club’s YouTube channel, “I didn’t really expect to win because the opposing pitcher (Pedi) is a really good pitcher. I played with the idea of scoring the least amount of runs,” he said, adding, “In a way, it’s not a big deal, but I was so bad before. Now I think I helped the team, so I’m pretty happy with that,” he smiled.