Lee Kang-chul “The key player for the 2024 season is Finisher Park Young-hyun”

Last season’s KBO League Korean Series runner-up KT lost closer Kim Jae-yoon, 34, in the offseason. As a free agent, Kim joined Samsung for a four-year, $5.8 billion deal.

But KT fans aren’t worried. They have the presence of right-handed reliever Park Young-hyun (21), who is entering his third season. Park established himself as KT’s go-to setup man last season. In 68 games and 75.1 innings pitched, he went 3-3 with 32 holds, four saves, and a 2.75 ERA. He also became the youngest holder in KBO history. Thanks to his strong performance last season, Park’s salary increased by 162.3 percent from 61 million won to 160 million won.

Park Young-hyun is now expected to pitch as a closer in the 2024 season. At KT’s spring training camp at the Gijang Hyundai Motor Dream Ball Park in Gijang, Busan, the pitching staff threw their first bullpen session on June 6. When Young-hyun Park appeared in the bullpen, KT manager Lee Kang-cheol exclaimed, “Our closer is here.”

Park threw 30 pitches, mostly powerful fastballs, and Lee was impressed. With a fastball reminiscent of Oh Seung-hwan’s stone fastball in his heyday and a forkball that dropped in front of home plate, Young-hyun is challenging to become the youngest save king. The previous record for the youngest save was set by Go Woo-seok (San Diego Padres) at the age of 24 in 2022, when he was playing for LG.

Lee also cited Young-hyun Park’s finish as the biggest variable that will determine the success of the season. “The key player this season is Park Young-hyun. It’s the biggest change. Last season, he came in once in a while for a save, but now he has to be a full-time closer.” “Fortunately, I think his personality is well-suited to closing. He just goes for it. He’ll get hit, blow a save, and the next day he’ll laugh about it, forget about it, and throw another one. I’m sure he’ll do a good job.”

After falling to the bottom of the standings early last season due to injuries to key players, KT rebounded in June to finish second in the regular season and advance to the Korean Series. “This season, we will manage our injuries well and challenge for the Korean Series title,” Lee said.


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