Second-year left-hander Choi Ji-min (19) of the KIA Tigers is developing into one of the most reliable pitchers in the bullpen. On April 27 in Gwangju against the LG Twins, he relieved starter Yang Hyun-jong and recorded four outs.
In the top of the seventh inning, he gave up singles to put runners on second and third with nobody out, but he got the next two batters to fly out. In the eighth inning, he retired Austin’s left fielder, Kim Hyun-soo, and Moon Bo-kyung on swinging strikes to set the stage for a 6-3 victory.
Starting pitcher Yang Hyun-jong earned his 162nd win and moved into sole possession of second place on the KBO’s all-time wins list. He hugged Choi Ji-min after the game. When Choi approached him, Yang opened his arms and hugged him tightly.
Choi Ji-min’s ability to save the game helped Yang Hyun-jong win. “I hugged you because I wanted to congratulate you,” Choi explained. The 19-year-old’s newfound stature was evident in the scene.
Choi’s stats are even more impressive. At the age of 27, he has appeared in 21 games with a 2-1 record, three saves, and an honorable mention ERA of 1.07. He hasn’t allowed an earned run in 17 straight games. In May alone, he went 11 games with a 0.00 ERA.
He started the season in the chase group, giving up three runs in his first four games. He gradually increased his number of appearances and surged on April 29, earning his first hold with a two-inning no-hitter against the Jamsil LG. He surprised everyone by throwing a fastball that was up to 150 kilometers at the time.
Starting with his first hold on that day, he went into a rapid transformation mode. He now throws in the mid-to-high 140s. With his dynamic delivery, he mixes in a slider and changeup that curves sharply toward the right-handed batter’s body, making him an impregnable pitcher. When it mattered most, he became known as the man to rely on in crunch time.
“I don’t care about my velocity,” he says, “I don’t care about my fastball. No matter what the situation is, I’m just trying to do my job and block well.” 스포츠토토
However, he cautiously revealed the source of his energy. “I’m not greedy,” he laughed, “but when I hear the cheers of the fans, the many people who come and cheer for me, I feel like I’m getting stronger.
At the Jamsil game on April 29, which was the trigger for the rebound, he received tremendous fan support and turned into Hulk mode. On that day, more than 17,000 fans gathered. He truly enjoys the shouts and cheers of his fans.