KT Wiz’s miraculous journey in 2023 helped them discover a must-win duo that could carry them through the next decade. Despite the runner-up finish, head coach Lee Kang-cheol praised the growth of Park Young-hyun (20) and Son Dong-hyun (22), saying, “It was a year of gains.”
KT lost 2-6 in the fifth game of the best-of-seven KBO Korean Series (best-of-four) against LG at Jamsil Stadium in Seoul on April 13, and failed to win the series 1-4.
When asked after the game about the growth of young pitchers such as Son Dong-hyun and Park Young-hyun, Lee Kang-chul said, “I think it was a year where we gained a lot even though we didn’t win. The team still has to play baseball, but our players did so well. We lost in the end, but I don’t think we lost,” he said, referring to the gains from the runner-up finish.
With this postseason,
KT has earned two surefire get-out-of-jail-free cards to take care of business in the seventh and eighth innings. Both are young pitchers in their early 20s who have completed their military service obligations. The playoffs and the Korean Series have given them valuable experience that money can’t buy, and they’re looking ahead to the 2024 season.
The first card is Park Young-hyun, who has been dubbed the “next Oh Seung-hwan. Last year’s KT first-round pick, who made the youngest postseason save of his career, went 3-3 with four saves and a 2.75 ERA in 68 games (75⅓ innings) with an upgraded delivery. 바카라사이트 He passed veteran Noh Kyung-eun (SSG) by two games to become the KBO’s youngest holder of the title, and ranked fourth on the bullpen’s most innings pitched list behind Noh, Lim Ki-young (KIA), and Kim Myung-shin (Doosan).
It didn’t stop there. Park Young-hyun was named to the Korean team for the Hangzhou 2023 Asian Games, where he anchored the back end of the bullpen, marking the birth of the post-Oh Seung-hwan era. The gold medal-winning pitcher took his career into his own hands at the tender age of 20, when he was granted a special exemption from military service.
In the playoffs against NC, Park pitched a four-game, two-hit shutout with an ERA of 0 (five scoreless innings) to lead the team to its third-ever playoff reverse sweep.
He carried that momentum into Game 1 of the Korean Series, pitching one scoreless inning of relief. Although he suffered his first setback in Game 2 when he gave up a heartbreaking two-run homer to Park Dong-won, he tossed one-hit shutouts in Games 3 and 5 to close out his first career Korean Series.
Along with Park, Son Dong-hyun also made a name for himself in fall baseball. Son is a right-hander who was drafted by KT with the 21st overall pick in the third round of the 2019 KBO Draft out of Seongnam High School. He made an immediate impact in his rookie season, going 2-3 with a 4.75 ERA in 34 games and five starts, and he appeared in 23 games the following year, but didn’t have the same impact this year. After missing the playoffs in 2020, Son fulfilled his military obligations by heading to the Armed Forces Athletic Corps (Commerce) in March 2021.
Upon his discharge in September of last year, Son joined Park Young-hyun and Kim Jae-yoon to form the KT backcourt trio in his first full-time season. Son’s season record was 8-5, 1 save, 15 holds, and a 3.42 ERA in 64 games, making him an “any-call” pitcher who could be called upon in any situation, whether it was a must-win, chase, or long relief, in just his fourth year in the organization. All of these stats are career highs, and in terms of innings pitched, he ranks fifth all-time among bullpen arms (73⅔ innings).
Son Dong-hyun showed off his ‘big game pitcher’ qualities in his first fall baseball appearance.
The highlight was the playoffs against the NC, where he appeared in all five games between Suwon and Changwon and won the playoff MVP award after going 1-0 with an ERA of 0 (seven shutout innings). He followed that up with two scoreless innings of relief in Game 1 of the Korean Series.
But Son was not invincible. In his first full-time postseason start, he began to show signs of fatigue in Game 2 of the Korean Series, giving up one run in ⅔ of an inning in Game 2 and then giving up a two-run homer to Park Dong-won in Game 3. Son Dong-hyun closed out his eventful first Korean Series with a scoreless inning in Game 5.
They were joined by the discovery of 1995-born Lee Sang-dong in the runner-up spot. After entering active duty in April, he led the team to a second-place finish in the regular season and proved competitive in the playoffs and Korean Series, setting the stage for his first full-time season next year.
KT’s miraculous journey has allowed them to build a young and solid bullpen, including Park Young-hyun, Son Dong-hyun, and Lee Sang-dong. It’s easy to see why Lee said after the series, “We lost, but we didn’t lose”.