Five rookies made their opening day debuts, competitiveness was confirmed

Despite dropping the opening game, there was a silver lining.

The Kiwoom Heroes continued their upbringing from the start. They lost 5-7 in their opening game against the Kia Tigers of the 2024 Baseball Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) at the Gwangju-Kia Champions Field on April 23. Choi Joo-hwan hit a two-run home run in the first inning to open the scoring, but trusted starter Ariel Furado gave up seven runs on 10 hits in four innings.

He gave up five runs in the first inning alone, and added another in the fourth inning after being hit by a home run. A fielding error by center fielder Dawson, who missed Park Chan-ho’s throw in the bottom of the first inning, also played a role, but it was an unusual sight to see such a concentrated blowout. Gone was the formidable Kia pitching staff that went 3-1 with a 1.88 ERA in four games against the team last year.

Instead, Kiwoom tried to make a point in a losing effort, debuting five rookies and proving its competitiveness. After removing Furado in the fifth inning, they brought in left-hander Son Hyun-ki, a second-round pick, who pitched a one-hit shutout against four batters. The 6-foot-4 right-hander used his height to his advantage, throwing strikes at the plate.

The sixth inning featured right-hander Jun-pyo Jeon, who was selected in the first round. He faced seven batters over two innings, allowing one hit and two walks without allowing a run. He gave up back-to-back singles in the bottom of the sixth, but got Lee Woo-sung to fly out to right field. In the seventh, he gave up a leadoff single and a stolen base to Kim Tae-gun, but pitched a scoreless inning.

In the eighth inning, the team sent right-hander Kim Yeon-ju to the mound for the third round. She faced four batters and pitched a scoreless inning with one hit and one walk. After giving up a double to Choi Hyung-woo to left field, Kim walked Kim Sun-bin and induced Lee Woo-sung to ground out to third base. He got out of the inning with a mid-140s fastball and changeup.

The Yasu used second-round pick Lee Jae-sang as the starting shortstop in an unusual move. It was the fifth time since his professional debut that the high school rookie started at shortstop on Opening Day. He went hitless in two at-bats, including striking out in his 토토 first at-bat, but made his presence felt with his steady defense. In the seventh inning, Koh was brought in at shortstop. He had no at-bats but made his debut in defense.

Hong Won-ki made six unconventional selections to the opening day roster: pitcher Jeon Jun-pyo (8th round, 1st round), Kim Yoon-ha (9th round, 1st round), left-hander Son Hyun-ki (2nd round), Kim Yeon-ju (3rd round), and infielders Lee Jae-sang (2nd round) and Ko Young-woo (4th round). These are all rookies from the 2024 Rookie Draft. All of them are rookies in the first through fourth rounds. The future of Kiwoom.

“This is the current state of our team,” Hong said before the game, explaining the reason for the rookies. We have a lot of good pitchers and fielders, and we’ll try to get them acclimated to the league as soon as possible. We will be patient and keep giving them opportunities even if they are not good enough. That’s what I’m going to do,” he said. From the start, the team stuck to its guns. The rookies responded with a great performance.