“There’s no way I’m changing roles again. We have to win where we are.”
Doosan Bears manager Lee Seung-yeop spoke about new closer Jung Chul-won before the 27th game against the Jamsil SSG Landers. Lee announced a major mound overhaul on March 15. He sent sidearm starter Choi Won-jun, who had struggled all season, to the bullpen and turned left-hander Choi Seung-yong into the starting rotation, and switched closer Hong Gun-hee and setup man Chung Chul-won, whose pace dropped in the second half of the season. The move was meant to add stability to the mound.
However, Chung has struggled since winning the closing title. In five games since the switch, he has two saves, 4⅔ innings pitched, and a 9.64 ERA. His trademark fastball, breaking ball, and guts have all been missing lately. His WHIP (walks allowed per inning) has reached 3.43. A WHIP of over 20 is a serious number, but Chung is struggling beyond that. His BABIP is 0.478. It’s a small sample size, but it’s hard to deny that Chung’s current situation is pretty serious. Against SSG in Jamsil on the 26th, he uncharacteristically balked and collapsed.
Chung has always been a gutsy pitcher on the mound, throwing 150-kilometer-per-hour fastballs and dropping forked balls with runners in scoring position and a bad pitch count. Last year, he won Rookie of the Year honors with 23 saves, and this year he’s been an integral part of the rotation, posting five wins, two saves, 11 saves, 40⅔ innings pitched, and a 3.76 ERA in the first 39 games. When Lee decided to revamp the mound, he gave Chung the most important closing role because he believed he had both the skill and personality to handle the pressure.
“I think the closing position is hard because there is no pitcher behind you, and I think pitchers are more relaxed when they think they have the next inning. I don’t think (Chung) Chul-won was under pressure. I think he’s just not feeling well. The pitchers in general are not in good shape right now.”
For now, he’s going to wait and see if Chung can make a comeback. “There’s no way he’s going to change positions again. We have to win the current position. The closer has no backup. You have to have a strong heart with the responsibility of being the last pitcher. I think I should meet Chung and scold him once,” and hoped that he would bear the weight of the position with more determination than now.
Contrary to Lee’s wishes, Jung Chul-won pitched below expectations against SSG in Jamsil on July 27. He took the mound with runners on first and second in the top of the 10th inning of the 5-5 extra inning and gave up two runs on three hits and one walk in ⅓ inning. He got the first batter he faced, Park Sung-han, to ground out to first base to put runners on second and third, but Jeon Ui-san hit a single to left-center to make it 5-6.
Jung faltered further when he couldn’t keep Kim Myung-shin from scoring the go-ahead run. He gave up a single to Ha Jae-hoon in the next at-bat, and then committed a wild pitch to put runners on second and third with Kim Sung-hyun at the plate. Kim Sung-hyun then hit a two-run double to left field. With the score at 5-8, it was a wedge hit that completely set the tone for SSG. Lee was still hoping that Jung would tie the game up in the 10th, but he walked Lee Heung-ryun, the No. 9 hitter, to put runners on first and second. Lee switched to Kim Yoo-sung, who got Kim Kang-min to fly out to center field to end the eventful top of the 10th.
With the second straight loss, Doosan falls to 54 wins, 53 losses and one tie on the season, dropping one spot from fifth to sixth place. Although they are only 0.5 games behind the Kia Tigers, who have won four straight games to move into fifth place, they need to stabilize their bullpen if they want to stay in the fight for the top five.
As Lee mentioned, in addition to Jeong Chul-won, Kim Myung-shin, Park Chi-guk, and Hong Gun-hee, all of whom have been key starters since the beginning of the season, have run out of gas. Recently, Choi Won-jun and Lee Young-ha have been steady, but they haven’t proven to be reliable enough in the bullpen to take over the closer’s role.메이저놀이터
If Chung Chul-won doesn’t come through, the manager will find himself in an increasingly difficult situation, as it’s hard to change roles on short notice. He needs to find a reason to keep him in the closer’s role sooner rather than later, as both he and Lee are in need of a breakthrough.