The KIA Tigers, who are in the midst of competing for the semifinals, faced a huge negative news. Starting outfielder Na Seong-beom left the line. He cannot return until the season ends.
On the 20th, the KIA team said, “As a result of Na Seong-beom’s cross-check (examination) at two hospitals in the morning and afternoon, he was diagnosed with a right hamstring injury. The total rehabilitation period is expected to take 10 to a maximum of 12 weeks.” explained.메이저놀이터
The day before, Na Seong-beom started as the third hitter and right fielder in the home game against the LG Twins in the 2023 Shinhan Bank SOL KBO League held at Gwangju-KIA Champions Field, recording 3 hits and 2 RBIs in 4 at-bats, continuing his multi-hit streak for 3 consecutive games. . In particular, in the bottom of the 8th inning, when the team was trailing 1-4, he scored 2 RBIs and timely hits against Choi Dong-hwan at 2nd and 3rd base with no outs, sparking the chase.
It was after that that the problematic situation occurred. With one out and runners on second base, Kim Sun-bin hit a fly ball to right field, and at this time, second base runner Na Seong-beom attempted to tag up and advanced to third base. However, during this process, he felt something was wrong with his physical condition, and after the follow-up hitter Socrates Brito’s automatic 4th pitch, he was replaced by pinch runner Lee Woo-sung.
On this day, Na Seong-beom played both batting and defense for the first time in a long time. On the 10th, in the game against LG in Gwangju, he was hit on his left little toe by a foul ball he hit, and was unable to play defense for a week due to the aftermath. Considering the player’s physical condition, KIA coach Kim Jong-guk used Na Seong-beom as the designated hitter until the home game against the Doosan Bears on the 18th. However, another injury hindered him.
Na Seong-beom played in all regular season games (144 games) for two consecutive years from 2021 when he was NC Dinos until last year, the first year of his transfer to KIA, but was in tears this year due to injury. After participating in the World Baseball Classic (WBC) last March, he was unable to participate in the regular season opening entry due to a left calf muscle injury, and Na Seong-beom was unable to play in a first-team game for over two months.
Na Seong-beom, who continued to cruise after his return, boasted a good batting ability in the second half of the year by recording 163 hits, 62 hits, 0.380 batting average, 12 home runs, 44 RBI, and 1.116 OPS in 44 games. Looking at his performance in September alone, he hit hard every day with 24 hits in 54 at-bats in 15 games, a batting average of 0.444, 6 home runs, 20 RBI, and an OPS of 1.323.
The entire team gained momentum with the return of injured players, including Na Seong-beom and Kim Do-young, who had been absent for a long time due to injury. It seemed like a green light was given to the competition for the top five, with 9 consecutive wins from the Suwon KT Wiz match on the 24th of last month to the Jamsil Doosan Bears on the 6th, but this injury left both the team and player with regret.
In fact, KIA was facing big and small concerns in terms of power even before Na Seong-beom’s injury.
Pitchers Lee Ui-ri and Choi Ji-min, and outfielder Choi Won-jun, who are on the 2022 Hangzhou Asian Games national team, will join the national team on the 23rd. Choi Won-jun’s gap can be filled by existing fielders such as Lee Chang-jin or Lee Woo-sung, but it is not easy to find a replacement on the mound where two key pitchers are missing. Coach Kim Jong-guk expressed concern in a recent interview, saying, “We have three players (players going to the national team), but it is a blow. Isn’t it much better to have those players?”
In addition, the fact that the KIA mound, which had held up well, is shaking is also a factor of concern. The monthly team ERA, which ranked first in the league at 2.87 in July, soared sharply to 4.65 (6th) last month and 5.47 (9th) in September. This month, Yang Hyun-jong is struggling with 1 win, 3 losses, and an ERA of 2.16 in 4 games and 25 innings, but key starting pitchers such as Yoon Young-cheol, Thomas Panoni, and Lee Ui-ri have performed poorly. There are limits to holding on with replacement starting pitchers.
The sluggishness of the starting lineup will inevitably lead to an overload of the bullpen. While there are players who have shown decent pitching, such as Im Ki-young, Jeon Sang-hyun, and Yoon Jung-hyun, who have quietly been a part of the bullpen since the beginning of the season, there are quite a few pitchers who have not lived up to expectations, such as Jang Hyun-sik and Jeong Hae-young. It is not easy for a dramatic reversal to occur in a short period of time.
If there is anything that KIA can believe in, it is that foreign pitcher Mario Sanchez is about to return. Sanchez, who felt unwell after the Gwangju Hanwha Eagles game on the 25th of last month, was examined at the hospital and was found to have partial damage to the medial collateral ligament of his right elbow (elbow) and symptoms of impingement syndrome. It was expected that his rehabilitation would take about three weeks, and the club and player decided to monitor his condition while receiving injection treatment.
Sanchez, who showed signs of recovery, went through the process of returning smoothly. Earlier this month, he started playing catch and even made long tosses, and last week he performed bullpen pitching, signaling his imminent return. On the 17th, live pitching was held at Hampyeong-KIA Challengers Field, the home stadium of the 2nd team. A total of 2 sets of 20 pitches per set were played, and the average fastball velocity and maximum velocity were measured at 142km and 144km, respectively.
Considering that this is his first appearance since his injury, KIA’s plan is not to overwork Sanchez. Sanchez will make a relief appearance as the second pitcher following starting pitcher Lee Ui-ri in the match against Hanwha in Daejeon on the 21st, and is expected to pitch 50 to 60 pitches.
However, except for the return of Sanchez, there are not many factors that can lead to a dramatic turnaround for KIA. Even after the announcement of the remaining game schedule on the 29th of last month, a tight schedule awaits the players, with 6 games (5 games rescheduled after October 10th) being postponed. It remains to be seen whether KIA, which fell to 6th place with 60 wins, 2 draws, and 58 losses (0.508), can overcome the crisis amidst various negative factors.