KBO rookie pitcher lives up to expectations in spring debut
Kiwoom Heroes' rookie right-hander Jang Jae-young lived up to his billing as a flamethrower in his spring training debut Wednesday, though the teenager also showed his wild side.
Jang, the Heroes' territorial draft pick last year, touched 154 kilometers (95.7 miles) per hour with his fastball in an intrasquad game at Gocheok Sky Dome in western Seoul.
The 18-year-old faced four batters, recording a strikeout, a groundout, two walks and two wild pitches, before being lifted with a slight cut in his right thumb.
A Heroes official said Jang was taken out as a precaution and that he hadn't suffered any blisters on his hand.
Jang made 18 pitches — 10 fastballs, four curveballs, three sliders and one forkball — in the bottom of the fourth inning.
He struck out Lee Byung-kyu looking on a breaking ball to open that inning.
Park Jun-tae then grounded out to first base, with first baseman Lee Myung-ki making a fine grab and tossing it to Jang covering the bag.
With two quick outs, Jang went ahead 0-2 on Seo Geon-chang but then threw four straight balls to walk him.
Then facing veteran slugger Park Byung-ho, Jang threw two wild pitches, including one well above Park's head. The fourth ball to Park also went to the backstop and put runners at the corners for Huh Jeong-heop.
But before throwing a pitch to Huh, Jang signaled to the bench for help. After trainers looked at Jang's hand, the inning was declared over in the informal, six-inning affair.
Jang is the son of ex-Heroes manager Jang Jung-suk. In an indication of their expectations for the pitcher, the Heroes awarded him a signing bonus of 900 million won ($802,100) last fall, the second-largest rookie signing bonus in KBO history.
Prior to Wednesday's scrimmage, current Kiwoom manager Hong Won-ki remained noncommittal about Jang's chances of breaking camp with the club.
Hong said he would need to see how Jang handles different situations on the mound.
The official exhibition season begins on March 20, with the regular season set to begin on April 3.