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Kiwoom's pitcher Jang Jae-young turns ace hitter

Posted June. 22, 2024 08:22,   

Updated June. 22, 2024 08:22


Kiwoom Heros' Jang Jae-young (age 22) has been serving as a batter for less than a month but he hit a long ball for his first major-league game as a hitter. Many wonder whether Jang, evaluated as having unprecedented talent, could unleash the full potential he couldn't achieve as a pitcher, now as a batter.

Two years ago, Jang joined the Kiwoom Heros as a pitcher, signing a contract worth 900 million won, the second-highest in the history of Korean professional baseball. On Thursday, he made his debut as the 9th batter and center fielder in an away game against Hanwha at Cheongju Stadium. His performance was nothing short of impressive. In the 3rd inning, he secured a base with a straight walk. In the 4th inning, with two outs and a runner on first base, he hit an outside fastball (152 km/h) for a double that swiftly passed the first baseman. In the 7th inning, he drew his second walk. This debut as a batter, with two at-bats, one hit, two walks, and one run, was a testament to his potential and adaptability.

During his time at Deoksu High School, Jang was an ace who threw fastballs exceeding 150 km/h. However, after joining the professional league, he struggled with control issues and couldn't find his place. Over three years, he played in 56 games, recording one win, five losses, and an ERA of 6.45. While striking out 100 batters in 103 and 1/3 innings, he also allowed 109 walks and hit-by-pitches. Jang, who suffered an elbow injury during spring training this year, decided to switch to batting last month after discussing it with the team as his injury worsened mid-season.

There have been previous instances of players who joined the pros as pitchers and later successfully switched to batters. Prominent examples include "National Batter" Lee Seung-yeop (current manager for Doosan) and "Joseon's Batter" Lee Dae-ho (former Lotte). Both picked up the bat after early injuries in their careers and achieved great success. KIA's main batter Na Sung-bum also joined NC as a pitcher but transitioned to a batter and grew into one of the best outfielders.

Heon-Jae Lee uni@donga.com