Veteran left-hander Jang Won-jun, 38, who led the Doosan Bears’ dynasty in the mid-2010s, will take the mound for the first time in nearly two and a half years.
Jang will start the 2023 Shinhan Bank Solar KBO League home game against the Samsung Lions at Jamsil Stadium on March 23.
It will be a whopping 958 days since Jang started a first-team game on October 7, 2020, against the SK Wyverns (now SSG Landers).
After that game, Jang did not make another start. He appeared in 32 games in 2021 and 27 games last year, all in relief.
This year, Jang started the season with the Futures (second team) and hasn’t had a chance to break into the first team.
He waited for his time in the Futures League. He started all four Futures League games, going 1-1 with a 3.60 ERA.
With a hole in the Doosan lineup, Jang Won-jun was given the opportunity.
Earlier this month, Doosan’s homegrown ace, Kwak Bin, was removed from the first team roster with a back sprain. Foreign pitcher Dylan Pyle, who missed the opening day roster after being hit in the head by a pitch during spring training, returned on April 4 and pitched two games, but was sidelined again with an elbow injury.
With a hole in the starting rotation, Lee gave left-hander Young-geon Lee Won-jae his first chance. However, after Lee Won-jae faltered with three runs in one inning against the Kiwoom Heroes on July 17, Lee decided to give Jang Won-jun a chance.
Jang Won-jun was an ace during the Doosan dynasty.
He started his professional career in 2004 with the Lotte Giants and was a regular starter from May of his rookie year. From 2008 onward, he consistently posted double-digit wins and became one of the league’s top starters.
After the 2014 season, Jang became a free agent and signed a four-year, 8.4 billion won contract with Doosan.
Jang was a solid ace for Doosan from 2015 to 2017. In three years, he started 86 games, compiling a 41-27 record with a 3.51 ERA.
He was equally impressive in fall baseball. He went 4-0 with a 2.44 ERA.
With a solid ace in Jang Won-jun, Doosan won the Korean Series in 2015 and the overall title in 2016. In 2017, they finished as runners-up in the Korean Series.
After eight consecutive seasons of double-digit wins, with the exception of 2012 and 2013 when he served in the military from 2008 to 2017, Jang’s career took a sharp downward turn in 2018.
Injuries and poor performances forced him to switch to the bullpen. In 2020, he made just two appearances with the first team.
Last year, after 27 games out of the bullpen with no wins, one loss, and a 3.71 ERA in six appearances, Jang was on the verge of retirement.
However, Lee decided to help Jang extend his career after taking the helm of Doosan. After meeting with Jang, Lee realized that he wanted to extend his career, so he made a proposal to the club.
“I told him, ‘If you want to quit, do it with conviction. If you quit on your back, you’ll regret it for the rest of your life,'” Lee said. “He’s a pitcher with 129 wins. If a player with this kind of history doesn’t want to retire and can’t find a team to play for, he should retire in disgrace. I want to treat him like a legend.”
Lee didn’t give Jang a chance right away, but as Jang gradually improved in the Futures League, he decided to fill the gap in the starting lineup with Jang Won-jun.
Jang’s first win in a first-team game was longer ago than his first start 스포츠토토.
He hasn’t earned a win since May 5, 2018, when he pitched six scoreless innings against the LG Twins to earn his 129th career victory. He hasn’t had a save since.
Jang needs one more win to reach 130 career wins. Only 10 pitchers in history have won 130 or more games in the KBO. If Jang Won-jun wins Game 23, he will become the 11th pitcher in history to do so.
If Yang dons the catcher’s mask on Game 23, Jang will be reunited with his former teammate for the first time in his career. It will be even more meaningful if they can combine for 130 career wins.