The fire is burning, now it’s just a matter of keeping the oil flowing.
In the Korean Baseball Organization, KIA has become the centerpiece of the end-of-season standings battle. The team’s frightening ascent has sent ripples through the seemingly sleepy standings. They are in 5th place, but only 1 game behind 3rd place SSG and 0.5 games behind 4th place NC. Depending on what they do next, they’ll be able to climb high enough. This is a huge improvement from the time when they were hovering in the middle of the pack with less than a 5% win rate.
Pajuk’s nine-game winning streak from April 24 to June 6 was the perfect catalyst. The return of Na Sung-beom and Kim Do-young, who were sidelined with injuries in the first half of the season, has also solidified the team’s overall chemistry. They’re on fire. Now that they’re on fire, it’s a matter of maintaining that firepower.
There is an element of anxiety. At the height of the standings battle, up to two spots in the starting rotation are up for grabs. One spot is already vacant. Mario Sanchez, who was brought in as a replacement outfielder, pitched seven innings of one-run ball against the Gwangju Hanwha on March 25 before leaving the roster on March 26 with an elbow injury. In addition, Lee Yi-ri will be sent to the 2022 Hangzhou Asian Games later this month.
KIA’s unenviable starting rotation could turn into a mass of variables in an instant. Making it through two turns as a substitute starter is a challenge for any team. That’s why Kia head coach Kim Jong-guk has remained vigilant during the hot streak, admitting that “there is a sense of uneasiness.”
There was some good news to ease his worries. Sanchez is recovering quickly. While Lee’s departure is unavoidable, Sanchez’s absence can be filled quickly as long as his rehabilitation is up to speed. This is good news for KIA.안전놀이터
He was initially given a three-week rehab assignment. It was expected to be at least four weeks, considering that he would have to step up his pitching. However, the rehabilitation is going better than expected. “He says he has no pain. I started throwing a 30-meter toss on the fifth day,” Kim said in an update. There’s no rush. “Until this week, we will train mainly on long tosses, and if there is no pain, we will start half-pitching next week,” the manager said.
In eight games this season, Sanchez is 4-2 with a 5.28 ERA (26 earned runs in 44 1/3 innings). It’s not the look or the numbers you’d expect, but the team desperately needs a solid starter to anchor the rotation to prevent overload. Sanchez’s upside is clear, and the KIA is eagerly awaiting his return.