Tiger’s Yang to rest for Olympic prepa­ra­tion

The Korea Times - - SPORTS -

Af­ter com­plet­ing a turn­around for the ages, Kia Tigers’ left-han­der Yang Hyeon-jong has been shut down for the 2019 reg­u­lar sea­son in South Korean base­ball, with his fo­cus now on help­ing the coun­try qual­ify for the 2020 Olympics.

Yang pitched in his fi­nal game of the Korea Base­ball Or­ga­ni­za­tion (KBO) sea­son on Tues­day, giv­ing up two earned runs in five in­nings in a no-de­ci­sion against the NC Di­nos.

The Tigers have eight games re­main­ing but they’re well out of play­off con­tention in sev­enth place with a record of 58-76-2 (winslosses-ties). Rather than push­ing Yang through a mean­ing­less fi­nal stretch, the Tigers will give the 31-year-old work­horse much-de­served rest.

Yang fin­ished the year with a 16-8 record and a league-lead­ing 2.29 ERA in 184 2/3 in­nings. Yang also tossed two com­plete game shutouts, more than any­one in the KBO in 2019. He’s first in in­nings pitched and tied for sec­ond in wins.

He’ll most likely be passed in those two cat­e­gories in the com­ing days, but th­ese are the type of gaudy num­bers that, at the end of April, few would have imag­ined Yang would have.

He was 0-5 in his first five starts of the sea­son with an ugly 8.01 ERA. He gave up 51 hits in his first 30 1/3 in­nings.

But over his last 23 starts, Yang went 16-3 and had a 1.17 ERA. Af­ter al­low­ing 27 earned runs in the first half-dozen out­ings, Yang held op­po­nents to just 20 earned runs the rest of the way. He recorded a sub-2.00 ERA in every month from May to Septem­ber, while earn­ing the KBO’s Player of the Month hon­ors for May and Au­gust.

And Yang, who has logged more in­nings than any KBO pitcher over the past five sea­sons, will get a breather be­fore na­tional duty calls in a cou­ple of months.

From Nov. 6 to 8, South Korea will host the pre­lim­i­nary round of the Premier 12, which dou­bles as the first qual­i­fy­ing tour­na­ment for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

South Korea, world No. 3, will face Cuba (No. 5), Aus­tralia (No. 7) and Canada (No. 10) in Group C.

There are three groups of four, and the top two teams from each group will ad­vance to the six-na­tion Su­per Round.

The top fin­isher from the Amer­i­cas and the top coun­try from the Asia/Ocea­nia re­gion that qual­ify for the Su­per Round will earn di­rect en­tries into Tokyo 2020.

Ja­pan is al­ready in the Olympics as the host na­tion. This means South Korea has to rank among the top six while also fin­ish­ing ahead of Aus­tralia and Chi­nese Taipei at the Premier 12 to punch a ticket to Tokyo.

Yang Hyeon-jong

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