The KIA Tigers left a gap in their home due to the departure of their main catcher. There are public concerns, but KIA is still seeing hope.
KIA coach Kim Jong-guk (50) mentioned the catchers in the team ahead of the 2023 KBO league demonstration game against the Lotte Giants held at Sajik Baseball Stadium in Busan on the 27th.
Last season, KIA’s main catcher was Park Dong-won (33, current LG). Wearing a KIA uniform through a trade in late April, he recorded a batting average of 0.244, 17 home runs, 53 RBIs, and an OPS of 0.773 in 112 games after the transfer. He showed above-average batting as a catcher and earned a spot in the ‘batting team’ 2022 KIA.
However, the partnership between Park Dong-won and KIA ended after one season. Park Dong-won, who qualified as a free agent (FA), signed a contract with the LG Twins for 4 years and 6.5 billion won after the season ended. In an instant, KIA had a vacancy in the catcher’s position. Even Kim Min-sik (34, SSG), a member of the championship in 2017, was traded, and he had to start looking for the main catcher.
NC Dinos (Yang Eui-ji) and LG Twins (Yoo Gang-nam), who had the same main catcher, recruited Park Se-hyeok (33) and Park Dong-won, respectively, but KIA did not catch them in the free agent market. Instead, he brought Joo Hyo-sang (26), who was once a promising catcher for Kiwoom Heroes, through a trade.
There are several catcher resources, but the KIA is considering key players over Joo Hyo-sang and Han Seung-taek (29). Joo Hyo-sang has yet to stand out in the first team, but has a career batting average of 0.303 in the second team, and Han Seung-taek is an experienced player who is entering his 11th year as a pro. However, compared to other teams, it is still evaluated as weak.
However, coach Kim has a positive idea. Before the game on the 27th, coach Kim said, “The catchers prepared very well,” and “although it is an exhibition game, the players are showing a better side on the defensive side.”
Regarding the selection criteria for starting pitchers, coach Kim said, “The pitcher and breathing are the most important, and we need to pay more attention to that part.” At the same time, he explained, “Han Seung-taek has accumulated a lot of experience with domestic players, and Hyo-sang Co., Ltd. is trying out in an exhibition game with Yang Hyeon-jong and Lee Eui-ri, who went to the World Baseball Classic (WBC).”
The KIA also sees that it can ‘make up enough’ for the 17 home runs that were vacated when Park Dong-won left. Lee Bum-ho (42), KIA batting coach, said at the spring camp, “I think there will be more home runs than (Park) Dong-won is missing. There are many hitters who can hit.” If other players can fill Park Dong-won’s gap in batting, the burden on catchers can be relieved.
In the game on the 27th, KIA Joo Hyo-sang wore a mask. In harmony with Eui-ri Lee, he overcame the bases loaded crisis well in the first inning, and then led a scoreless run until the 5th inning. Although the team lost 2-6 due to overlapping errors in the defense at the end of the 6th inning, he showed a decent appearance by catching 2 stolen bases in the game.먹튀검증
He made an impressive performance even in the hit that seemed to be a weakness here. Joo Hyo-sang, who survived with a hit to the left field in the top of the 5th inning, stepped on the home run when the next batter, Kim Seok-hwan (24), had a superior two-run home run. In the 8th inning, after a 9-pitch match, he showed a right-handed hit and went out. On this day, Joo Hyo-sang, along with number 2 Park Chan-ho (28), became the only two players in the team to record multi-hits.
Of course, no one knows what will happen to KIA’s living room once the season begins. However, at least if you look at the demonstration game, you can see that there is still hope.