Casey Kelly, 34, a foreign pitcher for the LG Twins of the Korean Baseball Organization, has been a symbol of consistency.
After joining LG in 2019, Kelly solidified a spot in the starting rotation, pitching at least five innings in 75 consecutive games, a KBO record, from May 16, 2020, against the Kiwoom Heroes to August 5, last year against the Kiwoom.
However, after four seasons of dedication, Kelly showed signs of instability this season.
After four years in the KBO, Kelly’s pitch repertoire was being thoroughly analyzed by opposing hitters, and his command was noticeably off. It was a sign of age.
Kelly was a steady fixture in the starting rotation, but he was consistently giving up runs.
He also had the lowest ERA (4.53) of all foreign pitchers who pitched regulation innings through July this year.
There was talk inside LG that he should be sent packing.
LG needed a strong foreign pitcher to form a “one-two punch” with Adam Plutko to win the Korean Series (KS), and LG President Cha Myung-seok was even looking for a new foreign pitcher.
However, LG was unable to find the right pitcher. In the end, LG decided to go with Kelly.
LG’s decision turned out to be a stroke of genius. Against KS, LG suffered a major blow to its starting lineup when ace Plutko went down with an injury.
The weight of second-stringer Choi Won-tae and third-stringer Im Chan-kyu was less than that of KT WIZ. Kelly’s performance was desperately needed.
At the end of the regular season, Kelly took on a bold challenge to help LG win the KS title.
He refined his forkball, which he hadn’t been throwing well.
She was desperate to do something.
After being selected as the first pick for KS, Kelly threw the ball with all her might.
She did just that, pitching 6⅓ innings in the first game between KT and KS on April 7, allowing two runs (one earned) on four hits and two walks with six strikeouts.
Despite the loss, Kelly’s performance was a huge relief for LG.
Kelly’s dedication continued. Before Game 3 of the KS series, LG head coach Yeom Kyung-yeop asked Kelly if she could start Game 4 of the KS series.
LG, which led the series 2-1 at the time, thought that a loss in Game 3 would set the tone for the series, so they decided to put Kelly on three days’ rest for Game 4.
The 34-year-old Kelly readily accepted the request.
LG won Game 3 of the KS, making Kelly’s Game 4 appearance unnecessary, but manager Yoon Kyung-yeop was impressed by Kelly’s dedication.
Kelly gave it his all in Game 5 against KS on the 13th.
He had runners on second and third with one out in the first inning due to a fielding error, but he didn’t falter and got Jang Jang-woo to ground out to the infield.
In the second and third innings, he pitched out of a two-on, one-out jam to stop the next batter.
In the fourth inning, with runners on second and third, he jumped for joy when center fielder Park Hae-min made a diving catch on a hard hit by pinch-hitter Kim Min-hyuk.
The icing on the cake was the fifth inning with a 3-0 lead. A depleted Kelly gave up back-to-back singles to Choi Jae-dae and Kim Sang-soo to put runners on first and third.
But Kelly struck out Park Byung-ho to end the threat. His third pitch was a big slider that induced a wild swing.
A wild pitch and a throwing error by the catcher, Park Dong-won, led to a run for Jang Sung-woo, but he was no longer shaken. He roared, striking out Jang Jang-woo.
Kelly shut down the KT bats with five innings of five-hit ball, three walks, three strikeouts and one run, and LG won 6-2 to take the series 4-1.
With his dedication and sacrifice in the face of ejection, Kelly became the first LG foreign player to win a KS championship ring, along with foreign hitter Austin Dean.
LG lifted the KS trophy 29 years after winning the title in 1994. At the time of the 1994 championship, there was no foreign player program.
LG has decided to re-sign Kelly. Kelly will continue to wear the LG stripes and take the mound at Jamsil Stadium next year. 먹튀검증