Can Hong Kun-hee of the FA become the Bears' lifetime pitcher leader

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"60 innings for four consecutive years, there's no bullpen like this."

Doosan Bears pitcher Hong Kun-hee will acquire his first FA qualification. Hong Kun-hee played a key role in Doosan's bullpen after the trade transfer, proving his durability with 60 innings for the fourth consecutive year. Can Hong Kun-hee, who even played the role of a pitching captain with the strong trust of his teammates, stay on the team.

Doosan's biggest task this winter is to catch infielder Yang Seok-hwan, an internal FA, and pitcher Hong Kun-hee. Yang Seok-hwan is considered the biggest fish in the FA market. Several teams already seem to be actively jumping into the bidding competition.

Not only Yang Seok-hwan but also Hong Kun-hee is clearly a competitive FA resource. Hong Kun-hee pitched in 64 games (61.2 innings) in the 2023 season and played a must-win role well with one win, five losses, 22 saves, five holds, and a 3.06 62 strikeouts and WHIP 1.48. Although the decline was somewhat disappointing at the end of the regular season, Hong Kun-hee was recognized for his durability as a bullpen pitcher through 60 innings in the fourth consecutive season since the 2020 season when he moved to Doosan.

Park Jung-bae, a bullpen coach at Doosan who spent the season with Hong Kun-hee, said, "I'm also a bullpen pitcher, but 60 innings for four consecutive years is a great record. There are few bullpen pitchers who show such consistency. Even though he was personally shaken for a while at the end of the season, it was great to lead the team's bullpen mound well as a pitcher leader throughout the season. He is also an outstanding player in leadership," he said, without hesitation.

Hong Kun-hee's stay will also have a significant impact on the future direction of the bullpen. Doosan is expected to determine the outline of the first-tier bullpen mound for the 2024 season depending on whether internal FA Hong Kun-hee will remain and rookie Kim Taek-yeon will adapt.

Cho Woong-cheon, a pitching coach who recently joined Doosan, said, "Basically, you can maintain the direction of the mound you operated this year, but the perspective I see can be different. I'm trying to make changes depending on the situation as I go through the final camp and spring camp. The key is whether Hong Kun-hee will remain on the team. Jeong Chul-won played a good role as a closer in his own way, and Kim Myung-shin and Park Chi-guk should also play the role of a must-win group. I watched a video of rookie Kim Taek-yeon, and he was a really good rookie. "It's a resource that I can grow well in the bullpen," he said.

Doosan clearly wants to catch Hong Kun-hee along with Yang Seok-hwan. However, the club seems to be wary of 'overpay' internally. After the opening of the FA market, the size of Doosan's contract proposal is also expected to change depending on what other clubs will evaluate Hong Kun-hee's value.

Above all, Doosan's fellow pitchers seem to be eager for Hong Kun-hee to stay. He often brings up the word "full-time pitching leader" toward Hong Kun-hee. I wonder if Hong Kun-hee will be able to stay on the team and walk the path of a lifetime pitcher leader like his teammates' wishes.



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