Within a month, the tone had changed. Choi Hyung-woo (40), the most senior member of the team, had nothing but praise for the second-year infield prospect Kim Do-young (20-KIA).
“People keep saying that if Do-young comes, something will happen,” Choi said about the effect of Kim’s return from injury in the middle of last month, “but of course it’s a boost when the main player comes back. But Do-young was a backup last season, not a starter. Even if he comes back, it won’t be much different from the current situation.”
It was a sobering assessment from a veteran, albeit one meant to ease the burden on the still-young Kim Do-young. Kim, who beat out “Fireballer” Moon Dong-joo (Hanwha) to be KIA’s first-round pick amid reports of a “second Lee Jong-bum,” hit .674 with three home runs, 19 RBIs, 13 doubles and an OPS of .674 in 103 games (224-for-53) last year. He started 44 games at third base and 16 games at shortstop, but was a backup in the other 43 games. 메이저사이트추천
However, at the All-Star Game at Sajik Stadium in Busan on May 15, Choi changed his assessment of Kim. He said, “If he does this now, he’s not just a starter, he’s the best. (Last month’s remarks) were based on the fact that I felt a little bit like a backup last year. If he continues like this, he’s not just a starter, he’s a superstar.”
After fracturing his left pinky toe while running the bases in the opening two games, Kim returned to the first team on March 23 after two-and-a-half months of rehabilitation. In 14 games since then, he’s batting 3-for-33 (20 for 60) with two home runs, six RBIs, six doubles and an .898 OPS. With Kim establishing himself as the starting third baseman, KIA was able to make a trade with Samsung, receiving catcher Kim Tae-gun and sending Ryu Ji-hyuk.
Through the first two games of the season, his overall numbers are 3-for-5 with 24 runs (68 at-bats), two home runs, seven RBIs, seven doubles, and a .909 OPS. It’s a small sample size, but he’s played in all 16 games this season and has hit safely in all but one. He hit his first back-to-back home runs against SSG in Munhak on May 5, and has also stolen seven bases with his explosive base running speed.
Since Kim’s return, KIA has rebounded to go 8-6 with a .571 winning percentage. They even went on a season-high six-game winning streak at the end of the first half. Kim wasn’t the only impact. After recovering from a calf muscle tear and returning to action on the same day as Kim, slugger Na Sung-beom has also quickly found his groove and exploded for long balls, batting .322 (19-for-59) with six home runs, 13 RBIs and a 1.039 OPS in 14 games.
When the batting cycles of the established players came down, KIA, bolstered by the return of Na Sung-beom and Kim Do-young, finished the first half of the year in sixth place. Choi Hyung-woo, who led the KIA batting lineup in their absence, now shares the burden. “Our lineup has improved,” he said, confident of a second-half batting explosion.