“I didn’t think he’d be this good…” A bat on the verge of being released becomes a pitcher, and a 124-win legend saves the day

SPOTV commentator Jung Min-tae (53),토토사이트 a “legendary pitcher” with 124 career wins in the KBO and two Korean Series MVPs, was in Daejeon on April 19-20 to call the KT-Hanwha game. Every time a Hanwha pitcher came out, Jung’s voice became stronger. It was right-handed pitcher Joo Hyun-sang (31). Without Jung’s encouragement, there would be no “Pitcher Joo Hyun-sang” today.

Joo was not originally a pitcher. He was an infielder when he was drafted by Hanwha with the 64th overall pick in the 2015 second round from Cheongju and Dong-A University. Since his rookie year in 2015, he has played 103 games for the first team. He was a steady defender at his primary position of third base, but he also wore a catcher’s mask twice when the team was in need.

His defense was so good that then-manager Kim Sung-geun recognized it, but he had a weak bat, batting 2-for-1 with 47 hits in 222 at-bats in the two years leading up to 2016. Seven doubles without a home run were all he had in the first team. He then took a hiatus to serve in the military as a public service worker, and when he returned to the team in August 2019, he didn’t have a spot in the infield.

Jeong Min-tae, the pitching coach of Hanwha at the time, encouraged him to switch to pitching. There are many examples of pitchers who have made the switch from pitching to hitting, including Lee Seung-yeop, Lee Dae-ho, Choo Shin-soo, Lee Ho-joon, Chae Tae-in, and Na Seong-beom, but there are not many who have succeeded in the opposite direction. Now we have Na Kyun-ahn (Lotte), but at the time it was Kwon Jun-heon, Kim Jae-yoon, and Ha Jae-hoon.

However, Jung noted Joo’s strong shoulders: “Even as an amateur, the ball was quite fast. When I saw him throwing to first base as a third baseman, the ball was flying fast and powerful, and I thought he could be a pitcher with that kind of speed.” “As a fielder, I couldn’t compete, and I would have to quit the team,” Jung recalled. I knew that, and I said I would give pitching a try, so I told the team, ‘Give me one or two more years,’ and that’s how I switched to pitching.”

[OSEN=Reporter Choi Kyu-han] Joo Hyun-sung as a rookie infielder in 2015. 2015.03.12 /dreamer@osen.co.kr

[OSEN=Dae-sun Lee] Joo Hyun-sang also played catcher as a rookie. 2015.07.15 /sunday@osen.co.kr

[OSEN=Dae-Sun Lee] Hanwha’s Joo Hyun-sang 2023.07.26 /sunday@osen.co.kr

Jung left Hanwha after six years in 2020, but Joo developed into a first-team pitcher in his second year as a pitcher. In 2021, his first year as a pitcher, he went 2-2 with a 3.58 ERA in 43 games (50⅓ innings). Last year, he struggled with a 6.83 ERA in 49 games (55⅓ innings) with one loss, one save, and three saves, but this year, he’s gone 1-0 with a 2.48 ERA in 31 games (32⅔ innings).

He made two trips to the second team in April and May, but was sent back to work on his lengthened extension. Since returning to the first team on June 15, he has been dominant with a 1.37 ERA in 25 games. His fastball, which tops out at 150 kilometers per hour according to Trackman, has more power than numbers. Jung said, “Hyun is short (177 centimeters). Pitchers with short stature need to be able to bring their release point forward as much as possible and have good power to kick in front of the batter. That’s one of the reasons why we recommended him to switch to pitching.”

In the game against KT on April 19-20, which Jung also commentated on, Joo pitched a perfect first inning for the second straight day. Jung couldn’t help but smile at his former student’s performance. “When I switched to pitching, I didn’t think Hyun-sung would be this good. He’s doing amazingly well, and I feel good about it all. Sometimes he calls me to thank me, and I’m proud of him,” he laughed, adding, “As I built up my pitcher’s shoulder, I got more bite, and my changeup got better with a changeup and slider. I hope I can continue to perform as consistently as I am now.”

[OSEN=Reporter Choi Kyu-han] Hanwha Joo Hyun-sang. 2023.05.18 / dreamer@osen.co.kr