Until the second half of last season, LG’s foreign pitcher Casey Kelly (35) was destined to leave the KBO League. As he played for five years since 2019, his pitching power and stability declined significantly last year, and there were countless rumors of a substitution during the season.
It was during the Korean Series that LG manager Yeom Kyung-yeop, who had decided to replace both foreign pitchers, changed his mind. It was because of three folk balls that Kelly, who started in the first game, threw.
Coach Yeom Kyung-yeop, who recently called his first starting pitcher when he hired foreign pitcher Detrick N.S., also expects that he will win 15 games for Kelly, who will be the second starting pitcher at the same time. “One of the reasons I decided to renew Kelly’s contract is forkball. While adding one forkball, I created the conditions to play here for two to three more years,” Yeom said in a telephone interview. “With that forkball added, I think we can win 15 games.”
Coach Yeom Kyung-yeop asked him to add more folk balls throughout the season when he threw sliders and change-ups. He did so because he needed a pitching arsenal that could lower the ball speed and lose timing. However, fearing that he would strain his elbow, he did not throw one. Despite persuasion that the fact that throwing fork balls frequently cause injury to pitchers due to their ability to properly throw balls, Kelly threw fork balls in the first round of the Korean Series. “Don’t tell the manager in advance because it was a surprise event,” he said, revealing his folk balls that he had been quietly honing. Although he only threw three pitches, Kelly’s new pitching arduous to opposing KT batters, and LG is judging that he displayed potential.
Manager Yeom Kyung-yeop said, “It’s not because I threw the pitch type that I talked about. He showed how Kelly will change with the fork ball. I felt it myself, too. I decided to renew my contract because I thought I could go back to the old Kelly that the opponent had a hard time.”
Kelly has been LG’s ace player. There have been two seasons in which he has 15 wins in five years, namely in 2020 (15 wins) and in 2022 (16 wins). He was not the type that gave an overwhelming impression, and as time passed, the power was gradually diminishing as batters in the league adapted. Kelly has accepted the invitation for change, and is preparing to make full use of new weapons this year.
LG stressed that it is looking for a pitcher who can beat Kelly as the second starting pitcher while seeking a new foreign pitcher contract this year. While expecting 18 wins for the new pitcher N.S., Yeom Kyung-yeop also expects 15 wins from Kelly. 15 wins is an ace record for any team.
“Our team is equipped with good batting performance, defense, and a must-win team. If the starting pitcher himself manages to a certain extent, he can achieve 15 wins. Kelly, who failed last year, said, “I think this year is enough.” Manager Yeom Kyung-yeop, who has ordered changeups for new pitchers N.S. who mainly throws fastballs, is also certain that Kelly, who has decided to make changes by himself and is preparing for it, will revive.
Although LG won the title altogether last year, there was no pitcher with 15 wins. Lim Chan-kyu (14 wins) recorded the most wins in his team. Kelly won 10 games and Adam Plutko won 11 games, leaving a 30-win foreign duo often referred to as the conditions of the winning team. Since 1994, when there were Sanghoon Lee (18 wins), Kim Tae-won (16 wins), and Jeong Sam-heum (15 wins), it is only in 2022 when Kelly had 16 wins and Plutko had 15 wins. LG, which has won without a 30-win duo, is aiming for its second consecutive win, hoping for 30 wins by the new foreign duo that has added a new lineup. Kelly’s revival is essential.