Traded pitcher keeping new KBO club afloat

SEOUL-- The Kiwoom Heroes acquired veteran starter Jeong Chan-heon from the LG Twins at the end of July, hoping to bolster a rotation that was missing some key pieces.

And four starts into his Heroes tenure, Jeong has delivered the goods.

In his most recent outing for his new Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) club on Thursday, Jeong tossed six shutout innings against the KT Wiz. The right-hander allowed just one hit.

He didn't factor into a decision as the Heroes scored their winning run in the bottom eighth for a 1-0 victory. Jeong is just 1-0 as a Hero, but the team has gone 3-1 in his four starts. Jeong has thrown two scoreless outings.

And in those four starts, all of which have come in the second half of the season, Jeong ranks fourth in the KBO with a 1.17 ERA.

Also for the second half, the 31-year-old ranks first in the opponents' on-base plus slugging percentage (OPS) with .361 and second in opponents' batting average with .139.

The Heroes were in desperate need of a starting pitcher, so much that they parted ways with former league MVP and ex-captain, second baseman Seo Geon-chang, to bring in Jeong.

Jake Brigham, one of the Heroes' two American starters, went home on July 12 to care for his ailing wife and has not yet returned. Two other starters, Han Hyun-hee and An Woo-jin, are serving 51-game and 36-game suspensions for violating social distancing rules.

There were some lingering concerns about whether Jeong could be the pitcher the Heroes needed him to be, given his injury history and the extensive breaks he needed between outings while with the Twins.

He became a full-time starter for the first time in 2020 and made a successful transition from the bullpen, posting a 7-4 record and a 3.51 ERA in 19 starts. But the Twins eased him into action and only started him once a week or once every 10 or so days, which is why he only made 19 starts while other regulars made well over 20 starts.

But with the Heroes, Jeong has been pitching on five or six days of rest. He threw 93 pitches last Friday and then 82 on Thursday.

The Heroes, for their part, are trying to keep him fresh. He has not yet gone more than six innings or thrown over 100 pitches. He touched the century mark in pitch count just once this year, back on April 27.

Despite missing pitchers, the Heroes have remained in the postseason hunt. They're 50-48-1 (wins-losses-ties), good for the fifth and final playoff spot. They're in a virtual tie with the fourth-ranked SSG Landers (48-46-4) and one game up on the defending champions NC Dinos (44-44-4).

Source: Yonhap News Agency