Rookie of the Year candidate NC Dinos Yong-jun Lee (21) has rebounded with back-to-back strong performances. Lee Yong-jun started the seventh game of the season against Samsung at Lions Park in Daegu, South Korea, and pitched five innings of seven-hit, one-walk, two-strikeout ball to lead the Dinos to a 4-0 victory and pick up his third win of the season. With help from fellow beasts and the bullpen, added his first win in 39 days since April 29 against Hanwha.
Threw 53 pitches, more than half of his 98, with his fastball topping out at 148 mph. Threw a mix of curveballs (eight) and changeups (six), centered around his slider, which he threw for 31 pitches.
Had numerous crises, but was rather aggressive, uncharacteristic of a young player, and kept the bases loaded.
“I came up today with the mindset of just letting the hitters hit, and when I looked back at my last two games, which were bad, I realized that all the runs I gave up were on walks, so I focused on that and kept practicing and thinking.”
In the bottom of the first, Kim Hyun-jun singled and Kang Min-ho walked, but an infield error stranded Pirela at first and third. Two outs in the second. A sliding catch by right fielder Son Ah-seop on leadoff hitter Oh Jae-il’s double to right-center field helped the cause.
In the bottom of the third, Kim Ji-chan and Kim Dong-yeop hit back-to-back singles to put runners at first and third, but Kim struck out Kim Hyun-joon and walked Kang Min-ho.
In the fourth inning, Lee Jae-hyun and 먹튀검증 Kim Tae-gun hit back-to-back singles to put runners on first and third, but Kim Ho-jae struck out on a foul fly.
In the top of the fifth, Kim Dong-yeop singled but was thrown out at second base when Kim Hyun-joon hit a straight line drive to center field.
With a 2-0 lead in the top of the sixth inning, Yong-jun gave up a leadoff single to Kang Min-ho and a walk to Pirela to put runners on first and second with no outs, then gave the mound to left-hander Kim Young-gyu with Oh Jae-il at bat. Kim got Oh Jae-il to ground out to second and Lee Jae-hyun to ground out to third to end the inning.
Lee has emerged as a strong Rookie of the Year candidate with six wins in six games this season. Despite being an unfamiliar face, he was a ready-made starter. His experience from last year, when he played 100 innings, 78 in the C team and 22 in the first team, is a big help.
“I learned a lot in the first team last year, but I think I really learned a lot by rotating through the starting rotation in the C team. I felt a lot of things like routines and what to do in the next game after a breakdown. I studied a lot, and I think I got better this year because I talked to Coach Kim Soo-kyung a lot.”
Open-minded and unusually calm. These are the keys to learning from failure.
“When I’m having a good game, I always try to do it alone, and then the next game is not as good. I believe in the team, the coach, and the manager, and I have a lot of players behind me, a lot of older brothers, and I don’t think I’m going to get good results if I just fight by myself. Sometimes I don’t feel well, so I just trust my brothers and seniors behind me and just hit it, and I think I’ve gotten better.”
A deep thinker, not a player on a contract. We’re looking forward to the future.
Lee Yong-jun raised some concerns when he went down early in two consecutive games against Samsung on the 19th and Lotte on the 25th.
However, it was not a matter of physical strength, but ball placement. He got back on track by reducing his changeup and increasing his slider, his main weapon, under the advice of NC Kang Myung-ho, a former catcher. At the time, Kang also pointed out a problem with senior catcher Park Se-hyuk’s pitch mix.
“Se-hyuk was trying to change the pattern once because he saw that I kept throwing the slider, and it was fine if I threw well there, but it was bad because I lacked a lot of things. I don’t blame Se-hyuk by any means. I think I was overly greedy in those two games, honestly, so after the two losses, I went back to the mindset of just throwing the way I was throwing in the beginning without thinking about it, and I think I’ve been better since then.”
After giving up two runs (one earned) in five innings against Doosan on March 31, Koo’s five scoreless innings today marked a perfect rebound. Koo has been sidelined with a micro-tear in his wrist. Lee’s rebound is good news for NC’s sustainable rise.
With his game management skills, pitches, and mindset getting better with each passing game, Yong-jun is the clear favorite for Rookie of the Year at this point.