Ki Woo-jin 'likely to end season early' Hong Won-ki

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Kium Heroes Ahn Woo-jin.

Kiwoom Heroes ace Ahn Woo-jin, 24, is facing the possibility of ending his season early, not because he has a specific ailment, but because of the high level of fatigue that has been accumulating since last season.

Kiwoom head coach Hong Won-ki told reporters before the team's 2023 Shinhan Bank SOL KBO League game against KT Wiz at the Gocheok SkyDome in Seoul on Monday, "Ahn Woo-jin's arm fatigue is high. It's time to think about whether the player should run too hard."

Ahn had started the previous day (Aug. 31) against the SSG Landers, allowing one run on five hits with one walk and three strikeouts in six innings before leaving the game. He was pulled with 80 pitches to spare.

"In the previous two games and yesterday's game, I was uncomfortable with Ahn Woo-jin's movements on the mound, which he doesn't do when he's good," Hong said. "In yesterday's game, I saw him trying to settle in with his changeup from the first inning."

"She pitched more than 220 innings last year, including the postseason, so I think there is definitely a cumulative fatigue," he added.

Ahn, who has been in full bloom since last year, threw 196 innings in the regular season last year, with more innings in the semifinals (12), playoffs (6), and Korean Series (8⅔). This sudden increase in innings pitched by the young pitcher was bound to raise concerns about injury.

Kiwoom has been very careful with their ace Ahn Woo-jin. They gave him a 10-day break once in the first half of the year and another time last month, when they removed him from the first team roster and gave him a 10-day break.

But Hong doesn't think that's enough.

"If he had a good personal record, there would have been some invisible energy," he said, "but he didn't have a lot of luck, so I gave him two breaks, but I don't think that's enough to recharge him. If you throw a lot in the previous season, there is definitely an aftermath the following year."

Ahn also went for a medical checkup that day. Of course, she didn't have anything wrong with her, but it was just a checkup.

Director Hong Won-ki (right) and Ahn Woo-jin.

"I think we need to check Ahn Woo-jin's condition every day from now on," Hong said, "Of course, the season hasn't ended yet and our team is running towards our goal, but I think we need to think about whether we should do that to the point where the player is overworked."

"Of course, the player's wishes come first, so we're keeping all options open at this point," he said, "but I'm open to any situation (such as the end of the season)."

Managing an "ace" player who is not sick is not an easy decision.

"People don't understand," Hong said. "He's pitching well, he's striking out a lot, his ERA is low," Hong said. "Those are the things we talk about in terms of results, but on the field you have to consider everything else.

"Ahn Woo-jin is a pitcher who is growing into a pitcher who represents not only our team but also the KBO League, and it's a shame that he hasn't taken on the burden of an ace and done his best."

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⏰ Last updated: Sep 02, 2023 ⏰

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