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Doosan’s hit product ’99’, will it show its presence in the national team?

Despite the worst performance in the club’s history, there is a greatest hit product that became a source of consolation for the Doosan Bears last year. Born in 1999, Gwak Bin and Jeong Cheol-won of the same age, ’99’, wore the Taegeuk mark 메이저놀이터 together.

KBO held a press conference on the afternoon of the 4th and announced the final list of 30 players for the 2023 World Baseball Classic (WBC). 15 of them were pitchers, and coach Lee Kang-cheol and the national team’s technical committee gave opportunities to young pitchers who stood out in the league.

The names of Kwak Bin and Jung Cheol-won, who played as starting pitchers and Pil Seung-jo respectively for Doosan last year, were also included in the final list of the national team. This year’s WBC is the first time for both players to compete in an international competition since his professional debut.

Kwak Bin, who received high expectations to the extent of joining Doosan in 2018 with the first nomination, has always had a problem with uneasy control. Last year, he also experienced great ups and downs until July, and was evaluated as lacking in stability as a starting pitcher.

Gwak Bin, who had been like that, gradually found a sense of stability in August. He recorded 2 wins, 2 wins, and an average ERA of 2.05 in 4 games in August and 3 wins, 2 losses and 3.55 ERA in 6 games since September, easily digesting more than 6 innings per game.

In addition, he became a completely different pitcher from the first half, supporting the pitch, which is considered one of Gwak Bin’s strengths. His regular season record of 147⅔ innings, 8 wins, 9 losses, and an earned run average of 3.78 unfortunately failed to achieve his first double-digit multiplier in his debut, but it was a season that achieved the desired results.

Kwak Bin’s performance was also welcomed from the perspective of the national team, which hoped for a new face to appear for a generational change on the mound. Coach Lee Kang-cheol plans to put veteran players such as Kim Gwang-hyun (SSG Landers) and Yang Hyeon-jong (KIA Tigers) in the middle, and he intends to leave the early and mid-game to young pitchers. It is a story that Kwak Bin can be put in as a starter along with Joon Sohn (kt Wiz) and Changmo Koo (NC Dinos).

The WBC has rules on the number of pitches (65 pitches in the first round, 80 pitches in the second round, and 95 pitches in the semifinals and finals), making it difficult to run a game with one or two pitchers. Also, given the nature of the short-term game, flexible mound management is required, so Kwak-bin should add strength to the national team.

The rookie king’s first Taegeuk mark, showing power on the international stage
Jeong Cheol-won, the main character of last year’s KBO League Rookie of the Year, has been recognized for his consistent performance since he was promoted to the first team in early May. Doosan, which was worried about the bullpen at the time, immediately joined Cheol-Won Jeong in Pilseung-jo, and he lived up to the team’s trust with powerful pitching.

August was the highlight. 10 games, 14⅓ innings, 1 win, 3 holds, 2 saves, and the earned run was ‘zero’. In 14 games since September, he recorded an average ERA of 4.60 with 1 win, 1 loss and 9 holds in 15⅔ innings, breaking the record for most holds in a rookie season (23 holds). The final regular season performance was 58 games, 72⅔ innings, 4 wins, 3 losses, 23 holds, 3 saves, and an average ERA of 3.10.

Unlike Kwak Bin, it is likely that Jung Cheol-won will be used in the middle or late game. The national team has the best relief pitchers in the league, such as Ko Woo-seok, Jung Woo-yeong (LG Twins), and Kim Won-joong (Lotte Giants), so the burden is not as great as when playing for the team.

However, there is a great sense of responsibility to be the ‘leading force of the generational change’. As with the selection, the bullpen is also undergoing a generational change. Except for Lee Yong-chan (NC Dinos), it is difficult to find a senior pitcher in the bullpen. Pitchers who always guarded the back door of the national team, including Oh Seung-hwan (Samsung Lions), will no longer be seen.

All that remains is to prove his competitiveness, which has already been recognized in the league, in international competitions. As in the second half of last season at Doosan, will we be able to see Gwak Bin blocking the front and Jung Cheol-won finishing the game from behind?