After finishing the regular season early, Moon Dong-ju (20, Korea) used the Futures League to get a head start on his preparations for the Hangzhou Asian Games. He is aiming to be in the best shape possible for the Asian Games as he tries to build up his strength and maintain a good feel for the game before joining the national team. Ryu Hyun-jin (36-Toronto), a former Hanwha ace 13 years ago, is in the process of preparing.
Moon started the Futures League game against Doosan at Seosan Stadium on Dec. 12 and pitched two innings of two-hit ball, striking out four and walking none. The pitch was in preparation for the Asian Games, which are scheduled to convene on March 23. His season with the first team ended on March 3 against LG in Jamsil due to an innings limit set by the club, but a big stage awaits him at the Asian Games.
Hanwha also organized a schedule to prepare for the Asian Games after Moon’s first-team season ended. The idea was for him to pitch two to three innings in two games, so that he would be ready for the national team. In the LG game, Moon threw 29 pitches in two innings, with a fastball (10) that topped out at 152km and averaged 150km, and an even mix of five pitches: curve (8), slider (5), changeup, and cutter (3+). It was notable that he tested his cutter, which he rarely throws.
Hanwha manager Choi Won-ho said, “We made a schedule for Moon Dong-ju in the Futures. He recovered by playing catch last week, and after throwing 20 pitches (on the 10th), he threw two innings today. He will pitch simply again on the 15th, and then we plan to throw 40-50 pitches in three innings on the 17th (against Goyang in Seosan). After that, I will recover for about four days before joining the national team.” “This is how teams that go straight to the Korean Series usually prepare. I think Moon Dong-ju will probably be in the best shape for the national team.”
Park Se-woong, Na Kyun-an (Lotte), Won Tae-in (Samsung), and Kwak Bin (Doosan) are expected to pitch as much as possible in their seasonal schedules until the 22nd, the day before the call-up. They will enter the national team with a certain amount of fatigue due to the fact that they have to exert their full strength in the midst of the ranking battle.
In addition, Koo Chang-mo (NC), who has been rehabilitating from a fatigue fracture of the ulna in his left arm for more than three months, is unable to remain in the national team, and Lee Yi-ri (KIA), who skipped one rotation last month due to shoulder pain, was recently ruled out again due to blisters on his fingers. The only amateur player, Jang Hyun-seok (Yongmago), is also a question mark due to his extended absence from practice, as he did not participate in the Phoenix Games, his final high school tournament.
In such a situation, Moon Dong-ju has stepped up to the plate and maintained a proper sense of practice. Moon’s preparation is reminiscent of Ryu Hyun-jin (36-Toronto), who played for Hanwha in 2010. Ryu’s season ended on September 2 of that year against Samsung in Daejeon. He went 16-4 with a 1.82 ERA and 187 strikeouts in 25 games (192⅔ innings), but was forced to end his season early due to elbow fatigue. At the time, Hanwha was eighth in the standings, so there was little point in fighting for the title.
More importantly, the decision was made in preparation for the Asian Games in Guangzhou in November. “Even if he pitches 15 innings in two games at the Asian Games, he will have pitched more than 200 innings this year,” Han said at the time, “so there’s no need to be greedy and push himself too hard now. Ryu is a national treasure. You have to think about the national team.” Ryu embraced the early end of the season, letting go of his hopes of winning the title and the Triple Crown. That year, SK’s Kim Kwang-hyun won the title with 17 wins, one more than Ryu. Ryu was content to lead the league in ERA and strikeouts.
Ryu Hyun-jin, who finished the season three weeks early, joined the Asian Games in top form thanks to a big decision by Han Dae-dae and special management by the club. He started the first game of the tournament against Chinese Taipei and pitched six innings of five-hit ball with one walk and four strikeouts to lead Korea to a 6-1 victory. In the final game against Chinese Taipei, he pitched four innings of five-hit ball with three walks and eight strikeouts, allowing three runs (two earned) in a 9-3 victory. It was Ryu’s last international tournament to date, and he started and finished the team’s two most important games, leading them to gold.
While there are no direct comparisons to Ryu, who was already South Korea’s top pitcher at the time, Moon’s preparation for the Asian Games is similar to what it was 13 years ago. With a roster that is comprised of young players under the age of 24 or in their third year of professional play, barring a wild card, Moon is expected to play an important role. Physical condition is the most important aspect of a short international tournament, and if Moon prepares well, he could be a key starter. It will be interesting to see what the national coaching staff decides to do before the tournament.메이저놀이터
Meanwhile, the Asian Games squad led by Ryu Jung-il will hold its first training session at the Gocheok Dome on the 23rd. After a practice match in Korea on the 26th, the team will depart for Hangzhou on the 28th, and will begin their campaign against Hong Kong in the group stage on the 1st of next month. The biggest game of the tournament will be against Chinese Taipei on the 2nd.