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Baseball rookies hit wall after impressive starts

All Headlines 13:55 April 30, 2018

SEOUL, April 30 (Yonhap) -- At the onset of the 2018 Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) season, a handful of rookies came flying out of the gate, making early impressions and assuming key roles on their respective clubs.

But most of them have since hit the proverbial rookie wall, and that perhaps should have been expected given that they are still teenagers playing in their first pro season out of high school.

In this file photo from April 26, 2018, Kang Baek-ho of the KT Wiz watches his base hit against the Lotte Giants in the bottom of the seventh inning of a Korea Baseball Organization regular season game at KT Wiz Park in Suwon, 45 kilometers south of Seoul. (Yonhap)

No other rookie made the kind of impact that Kang Baek-ho of the KT Wiz did. A former two-way star in high school, the outfielder homered in his very first at-bat on Opening Day and was making KBO pitchers look like his high school opponents for a stretch. Kang launched four homers and knocked in 10 runs in his first seven games while batting .370.

He has cooled off considerably since, with just one home run in 24 games with a .229 batting average in April. For the season, he is hitting .264 and has been held without a homer in his past 16 games.

Right-hander Yoon Seong-bin had been a steady presence in the Lotte Giants' rotation until he was taken off the active roster last Friday. The 19-year-old picked up his first KBO win against the LG Twins on April 7 and recorded a career-high nine strikeouts in his very next start, a no-decision against the Kia Tigers on April 13.

But he failed to go longer than five innings in each of his next two outings, and the Giants decided to give him a breather. Yoon will still be traveling with the Giants until the club feels he's ready to get back to the grind. Players who are taken off an active roster are eligible to return in 10 days.

In this file photo from April 26, 2018, Yoon Seong-bin of the Lotte Giants delivers a pitch against the KT Wiz in the bottom of the first inning of a Korea Baseball Organization regular season game at KT Wiz Park in Suwon, 45 kilometers south of Seoul. (Yonhap)

Also on the mound, Samsung Lions' right-hander Yang Chang-seop is no longer on the active roster while dealing with a collarbone injury. After a strong spring training, Yang threw six shutout innings against the Tigers to win in his first regular season start on March 28. He hasn't been as effective since, and the injury is now holding him back.

The Lions took him out of the rotation on April 13, and manager Kim Han-su thought about bringing him back on April 24 before Yang suffered an undisclosed setback.

A couple of other rookies are at least still on the team. The Giants' infielder Han Dong-hui is batting .231 in 25 games but is still looking for his first home run. For the Doosan Bears, right-handed reliever Gwak Been is working on a six-game scoreless streak, a stretch of 7 1/3 innings.

He has pitched back-to-back on five different occasions this month and looked gassed earlier this month before settling down. He has a 1-0 record with a save and a 3.12 ERA over 17 1/3 innings in a setup role.

In this file photo from April 1, 2018, Han Dong-hui of the Lotte Giants hits a triple against the NC Dinos in the bottom of the eighth inning of a Korea Baseball Organization regular season game at Sajik Stadium in Busan, 450 kilometers southeast of Seoul. (Yonhap)

jeeho@yna.co.kr
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