There are too many lefties…
KIA Tigers general manager Jang Jeong-seok watched the players’ training at the second Okinawa camp in February and said, “(Future Steam) Hampyeong has an interesting pitcher,” arousing curiosity. He boasted, “I’m a left-handed rookie pitcher (lowering my left arm), but I throw it this way, and the ball is very good. I threw it up to 148 km.”
It was Kwak Do-gyu (19) from Gongju High School, who was dropped in the 5th round in the 2023 Rookie of the Year nomination. In the spring camp, only 1st round super rookie Yoon Young-cheol participated. The rest of the rookies all digested the spring camp at the Hampyeong Training Center. Jang, who inspected the 2nd Army camp, seemed to be deeply impressed by Kwak Do-gyu, who threw during the practice game.
The 1st team players returned home after the spring camp, and on the 11th, there was a practice game between the 1st team and the Futures team at Champions Field. Kwak Do-gyu came to the mound as the middle pitcher of the Future Team and blocked the first inning cleanly with a perfect pitch. Coach Kim Jong-guk, who watched Kwak Do-ryu’s pitching, immediately called him up to the first team and put him on the list for the demonstration game.
On the 13th, he took the mound in his first match against Hanwha (Daejeon) and blocked one inning with no runs. He induced with a fly ball to left field, a grounder to second base, and a grounder to first base. He throws in three quarters, has good velocity and good power on the ball.
In his second game on the 15th, before Kiwoom (Gocheok Dome), he walked the first batter and even came up with his own error, putting him in a crisis with 1 out 1 and 2 base. However, he showed skill in striking out both batters with powerful pitches. He stood out with a skill that was not like a rookie.
Coach Kim also had his eyes on Kwak Do-gyu at the Jeju finishing camp last November. He said, “I did everything alone as an ace in high school. I have good ball movement and the ability to manage the game.” Kwak Do-kyu responded to the expectations of the director, whom he met again after three months.
With the appearance of Kwak Do-gyu먹튀검증, the KIA mound had a headache. Eight left-handers participated in the spring camp, which was packed with the strength of the first team. Hyeonjong Yang, Eui-ri Lee, and local starters included Dae-yu Kim, Jun-young Kim Yu-shin, Ki-hoon Kim, Ji-min Choi, and Young-cheol Yoon.
Second-year Choi Ji-min drew attention with a much improved pitch compared to last year, and Yoon Young-cheol also raised expectations with an outstanding pitching of 4 innings, 7 strikeouts and no runs in the first exhibition match against Kiwoom on the 16th.
Kim Ki-hoon, who held a hot comeback ceremony last year, is also considered a starting candidate and a candidate for Pil Seung-jo. Here, even Kwak Do-gyu joined the ranks of the competition. It’s good that KIA has a lot of options to use, but I don’t think it will be easy to organize traffic. It’s a pleasant worry.