Yang Hyun-jong (35-KIA) has never been sent to the second team for “poor performance” since he started pitching. He was excluded in 2011 due to a sore shoulder and in 2013 due to a torn side muscle, but he has never been excluded from the second team simply because he “couldn’t throw”. I’ve been cut ten days before the end of the season because I threw enough and the team was ranked. That was four years ago.
Yang has always pitched with the mentality of “I have to take responsibility.” It was this responsibility that allowed him to throw more than 170 innings for eight consecutive years, starting in 2014 when he took over as KIA’s ace. Yang, who has always “refused” to take a break despite the coaching staff’s suggestion to rest once during the season, realized for the first time last month that “being in the first team won’t help me.
After being sent down early in June after giving up two big runs in a row, Yang seemed to bounce back, but sagged again in August. Unable to throw more than six innings, let alone a quality start (six or more innings and no more than three earned runs) since June 24 against KT (six innings, one run, no walks), Yang was finally sent to the second team after giving up seven runs on six hits and four walks in 5.2 innings against Kiwoom on August 15.
Kia manager Kim Jong-kook and pitching coach Seo Jae-heng gave him 10 days to “let it go” after he was removed from the roster. For the first time in his life, Yang accepted the break, thinking, “It would be better for the team if I went down.”
“It was the first time I went to the second team simply because I wasn’t good enough. It was also the first time I thought to myself, ‘It’s better if I don’t play. Before, even if I didn’t win for a month, I could still pitch an inning and contribute to the team, but now I couldn’t even last an inning, and I felt bad that I had to go to the mound to find something for myself when all of my teammates were trying so hard to win,” Yang said.
His pitching balance was off and he needed to make some small adjustments to his form, but in the end, what he needed to do with the ten days off was to clear his mind and fill it with confidence. He took the first three days completely off to clear his head and then spent the rest of the week throwing and training again. Upon his return, Yang came back looking like the ace he was before. On his return to the first team, he threw six innings of two-run ball against Hanwha on Aug. 26 and seven scoreless innings against SSG on Aug. 1 for two straight wins. It was the start of KIA’s eight-game winning streak.
“When I was struggling in the first half, I actually thought only of the positive. I thought, ‘How can someone keep throwing so well, it’s time for me to drop once,’ but after that, I kept throwing so lightly that I sagged deeper and deeper,” he said. “This time around, I had some time (out of the lineup), so I was able to look at my form again. I’m still not 100%, but I think I’ve found my ball. My confidence is back. The pitches that I used to go in aggressively and hit hard were fouled off in the first two games after I came back, and I was able to throw fewer pitches and go longer innings because I didn’t have the ball in play.”
KIA, which has struggled to manage its mound this year due to a lack of foreign pitchers, is hoping that its starters will last as many innings as possible in the remaining games. At the center of it all is Yang Hyun-jong, who has returned to his first-team form and is fueling KIA’s momentum.메이저놀이터
For ten days, Yang has been carrying the load as lightly as necessary. “Didn’t (Kim) Tae-gun say in an interview, ‘If you don’t feel like you have that responsibility or that burden, you should go to the second team,'” Yang said, “so I’m here in the first team to carry that burden.” “But I’m not going to think that I’m going to lead the whole game now. The pitching staff is so good right now, I feel like I just need to give up the least amount of runs and let the hitters do the rest. Instead, I’m going to hold on for dear life.”
Since opening day, Yang has pitched 119.2 innings in 21 games with a 7-7 record and 4.06 ERA. Yang, who until last year was the only pitcher in league history to throw 170 innings and win 10 or more games in eight consecutive seasons, has realistically given up on trying to reach 170 innings for a ninth straight year. However, he is hopeful for a ninth consecutive 10-win season with the team.
“Even now, I don’t think I’m 100%. Innings are hard. But I came back and won two games right away, so it’s seven wins for the season. It’s thanks to the hitters. The team is getting better, so I think 10 wins is possible, and I’m challenging myself.”