KT 5 starters, not one? Coach Lee Kang-cheol “This is what I’m going to do”

It’s a pitcher’s kingdom.

The KT Wiz will start this year with William Cuevas, Wes Benjamin, Young-pyo Ko, and Sang-baek Eom. The final five spots have not been finalized. They don’t plan to limit it to one player.

KT manager Lee Kang-cheol said before the spring training at the Kin Stadium in Okinawa, Japan, on April 24, “I won’t use just one player. We will rotate several players. I hope the players’ performance will be good.”

Originally, the starting spot was reserved for Choi Min-joon, but he went under the knife on May 10 last year after the regular season finale against the NC Dinos. He tore the medial collateral ligament in his right elbow. He underwent elbow ligament reconstruction surgery (Tommy John surgery). Since then, his rehabilitation has been going smoothly. However, due to the nature of the surgery, it will take him more than a year on average to get back on the mound.

Lee said, “He could return around July. “At first, we’ll have him pitch about once every 10 days,” Lee said, “but we’ll have to manage him. I don’t think he’ll be able to make a five-day turn until the end of the season. Eventually, we need to rotate the five starters consistently and alternately.”

The top five picks are Won Sang-hyun, Lee Chae-ho, and Kim Min-soo. Won Sang-hyun is a rookie who was drafted with the seventh pick of the first round this year after graduating from Busan High School. Lee categorized Won as a starter early on. The club is also keeping an eye on him. From the 15th of last month to the 10th of this month, he was sent to a mini-camp in the Philippines along with Choi Min-joon, Shin Beom-joon, and Yuk Cheong-myung. He hopes to improve his game through organized training and play in the first team as early as possible.

Lee made his first-team debut in 2021 after being drafted by the SK Wyverns (now SSG Landers) in the sixth round (55th overall) of the 2018 Korean Baseball Organization (KBO) draft. He was traded to KT during the 2022 season. He was hoping to establish himself in the midfield of the first team, but it didn’t happen easily.

“Chae-ho Lee has improved since last year’s final camp. His fastball has improved quite a bit this year, and his changeup is also improving.” “I think he can be a starting pitcher because of his curveball, changeup, etc. Of course, we have to see how it will be in the actual game.”

Kim Min-soo was drafted by KT with the 11th overall pick in the 2015 second round. He started as a middle reliever and gained experience as a starter in 2019 and 2020. Since then, he has been steadily working in the bullpen. In 2022, he was particularly impressive, posting a 1.90 ERA with 30 holds in his first 30 appearances.

Last season was a disappointment. In late March, he was diagnosed with a supraspinatus tendon injury in his right shoulder. After rehabbing, he returned to action but was lost for the season in mid-August after undergoing surgery for a fractured left ankle (outer peach bone). After recovering, he is back to full strength in spring training.

“We don’t need the five starters to pitch five innings per game, just three or four. I think it’s good to set the tone of the game early on,” he said, “and I’m going to try this until I have a more stable five-man rotation.”

There’s a reason for this five-start format. “We have more resources to utilize in the middle innings. I think the bullpen will be able to get us through about six 토토 innings,” Lee said. “We have Moon Yong-ik (free agent compensation player Kim Jae-yoon) and Woo Kyu-min (second round draft pick). Moon Yong-ik needs a little more polish, and Woo Gyu-min is a veteran.” “Park Si-young is back from injury. Ju-woo has also improved a lot.”

“We also have three young guns who played in the must-win group last year. Son Dong-hyun, Lee Sang-dong, and Park Young-hyun. There is definitely a sense of stability,” he said, adding, “Looking at this year’s spring camp, I think the experience of last year’s year is huge. All three have grown in many ways,” he added. “We have a lot of players in the bullpen, so we will prepare one or two to start. If they don’t start, they can come back to the middle, but you can’t make a reliever a starter during the season. It’s because of the pitch count.”

Park Young-hyun was selected as the new closer. He fills the void left by Kim Jae-yoon’s free agency move to the Samsung Lions after the end of last season. Lee said, “He’s young, but his mentality is very good, so I’m going to trust him. Last year, there were times when three people (including the closer) were responsible for four or five innings, but this year, we have more relievers, so we want to reduce the pressure on the pitchers.” “Last season, young players, including Park Young-hyun, played a lot of innings. There will be an aftereffect. If Young-hyun struggles this year, we’re thinking of someone to take his place.”

The left-handed bullpen thirst was not quenched. Lee said, “We have Jeon Jong-ju and Park Se-jin. If he doesn’t get sick, he’ll be fine,” Lee said, adding, “Park Se-jin’s fastball is the key. When I see him pitching in training, it’s not bad, but the important thing is the actual game.”

“When I first took over as KT manager in 2019, I thought the players had prepared well in spring training, but this year is really different. “They came to camp with their bodies ready to play,” he said, “and they’ve been preparing so well. I hope the players can finish the rest of the training without getting injured,” he smiled.