The KIA Tigers, called the ‘Pitcher Kingdom’.
This season has become a ‘left-handed paradise’. In addition to local one-two punch Yang Hyeon-jong (35) Lee Eui-ri (21), Lee Jun-young (31) Kim Dae-yu (32) Choi Ji-min (20) Kim Ki-hoon (23) Kim Yu-shin (24) are all lined up in the bullpen. In addition, Yoon Young-cheol (19), a ‘special rookie’, was added. The left-handed bullpen agent has been a precious body in the KBO league since someday, but the KIA is concerned about traffic control.
In the midst of this, another rookie left-handed pitcher is thrilling the KIA bench.
Kwak Do-gyu (19), who joined in the 5th 먹튀검증round of the 2023 rookie draft, is the main character. Kwak Do-gyu, who went through Gongju Middle School and Gongju High School and wore a KIA uniform, did not receive much attention at the time of nomination, being overshadowed by big fish players such as Kim Seo-hyun, Kim Min-seok, and Yoon Young-cheol. Kwak Do-gyu, who was not included in the 1st team spring camp roster this year, was called up ahead of the demonstration game, and until the 20th, he is making a good pitch with no hits, 1 walk, 2 strikeouts, no runs, and 0 ERA against 10 batters in 3 games.
Kwak Do-kyu has a somewhat unusual pitching form. An intermediate type between a three quarterer and a sidearm. He is a team senior and resembles Kim Dae-yu, a team senior with a left-handed sidearm type that is rare not only in the KBO league but also in overseas leagues. KIA coach Kim Jong-guk explained, “I changed my pitching form right before graduating from high school, and I heard that the ball tip movement improved. The angle of the arm is slightly higher than Kim Dae-yu, but it is a similar type.”
It is not just because of his pitching form that Kwak Do-gyu caught the attention of the KIA bench. His greatest strength is his boldness unlike a rookie. On the 19th against Doosan in Gwangju, the score was tied 0-0, and with no runners in the top of the 4th inning, Kwak Do-gyu, who took the mound as the second pitcher after Yang Hyeon-jong, ended the inning by throwing ground balls to Doosan’s leading batter Heo Gyeong-min and Kim Jae-hwan. Coach Kim praised him, saying, “I didn’t feel like I was suddenly prepared, but I did well.”
Even so, it is unclear whether Kwak Do-kyu will be able to join the opening roster. He deserves applause for his good performance, but he is still a rookie with a lot of work to do in the long run. He also has to consider the already saturated left-handed bullpen situation. However, if Kwak Do-gyu succeeds in surviving, the KIA will have a powerful weapon this season: Kim Dae-yu and Kwak Do-gyu, the left-handed sidearm bullpen. Coach Kim said, “He will operate the bullpen mainly with pitchers with good pitches and good condition, regardless of the type of pitcher.”