By Yoo Jee-ho
SEOUL, Aug. 10 (Yonhap) -- The reigning saves king in South Korean baseball will likely miss the rest of this season with a shoulder injury.
The SK Wyverns of the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) announced Monday that reliever Ha Jae-hoon will be sidelined for two months with right shoulder pains. An MRI taken Saturday revealed damage to his pitching shoulder, and doctors recommended a two-month rehab.
That will essentially rule him out for this season. The KBO has scheduled regular season games through Oct. 18, with rained-out games to be made up between Oct. 19 and Nov. 2. The Wyverns, in ninth place among 10 clubs at 25-52-1 (wins-losse-ties), are well out of playoff contention, and it'd be pointless trying to bring back Ha late in this lost season.
In 2019, the right-hander led the KBO with 36 saves and posted a 1.98 ERA. He parlayed that into a 150 million won (US$126,370) deal for this season, up from 27 million won. It represented the largest rate of annual increase in salary in KBO history at 455.6 percent.
But Ha's average fastball velocity dipped from 146.3 kilometers per hour to 143.7 kilometers per hour, and he had a 7.62 ERA across 15 appearances this season before getting booted to the minor league on June 22. Though Ha picked up four saves, he also allowed 19 hits and eight walks in just 13 innings.
Ha's and other relievers' struggles in the bullpen contributed to the Wyverns' dismal start to this season. Ha made a minor league appearance last Friday but threw only four pitches. He had an 11.57 ERA in three minor league games.
The 29-year-old took a long and winding road through the U.S. minor leagues and Japanese league before arriving at the KBO last season. The former outfielder had dabbled at pitching while in the minors for the Chicago Cubs. He returned to the outfield with the Tokyo Yakult Swallows in 2016 and converted to the mound for good with the Wyverns.
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