N.C. native lefty ace to pitch live, stay healthy and prove his worth
Can NC Dinos homegrown left-handed ace Koo Chang-mo, 26, punch his ticket to Hangzhou by proving his health and ability?
Koo will pitch live on June 13 at Masan Baseball Stadium. This will be the first time Koo Chang-mo has taken the mound since he was sidelined with an injury against the LG Twins in Jamsil on June 2.
Drafted by NC with the third overall pick in the 2015 second round, Koo compiled a 46-34 record with a 3.74 ERA in 163 games (628.2 innings) through last year, and when healthy, the left-hander can be labeled the league’s best ace. He won double-digit games in 2019 (10) and 2022 (11), and even in the 2020 season, which was shortened due to COVID-19, he went 9-0 with a 1.74 ERA to help NC win the overall title.
However, he has always been plagued by injury. In 2019, he missed the opening roster due to a right adductor injury, and later that year, he was sidelined with a stress fracture in his lower back. In 2020, he missed about three months with a stress fracture in his left forearm, and in 2021, he continued to complain of stress fractures, eventually ending up on the operating table and missing the entire season. His injury-plagued 2022 season was no different, as he suffered a hamstring injury midway through and has never pitched a full season of regulation innings.
Injuries have continued to plague Changmo this season. After opening the season in the starting rotation, he went 1-3 with a 3.26 ERA in nine games (47 innings), but was removed from the active roster on June 3 with a left flexor strain. To make matters worse, the stress fracture reoccurred later that month, and he faced a lengthy rehabilitation.
Koo Chang-mo’s condition was a major concern for Ryu Joong-il’s Hangzhou 2022 Asian Games baseball team. As a wildcard selection for the young team, Koo Chang-mo was expected to be the leader of the pitching staff. However, his extended absence has led to speculation about his replacement, and he is now in doubt for Hangzhou.
The Hangzhou Asian Games are also very important for Koo Chang-mo personally. If he wins a gold medal, he will be eligible for special military service. However, if he is dropped from the national team or fails to win a gold medal, he will have to enlist in the Armed Forces Athletic Corps after this season.
Koo, who started playing catch in late August and slowly began preparing for his return, threw his first bullpen session at Masan Baseball Stadium on Friday. First, he threw 20 pitches from a short distance in front of home plate, followed by 10 pitches from a normal distance. On the 7th, he attempted a 30-pitch bullpen at a normal distance, and on the 10th, he threw a 50-pitch bullpen at a normal distance with a 6-to-4 ratio of fastballs to changeups. He reported no discomfort in the injured area after pitching.
Koo Chang-mo, who is considering switching to the bullpen upon his return to catch a flight to Hangzhou, will finally take the mound and pitch live for the first time since his injury. If he shows that he is healthy and still has excellent command of his pitches in a live pitching situation, the timeline for his return will slowly begin to take shape. If there are no abnormalities in his body or physical condition on the day, Koo plans to pitch in the weekend’s Futures (2nd Team) League game against the Sangsung at Masan Baseball Stadium.먹튀검증
Realistically, there isn’t much time left for Koo to prove himself for the national team. The national team, which convened on Sept. 23 and will play a tournament schedule in early October, will watch professional baseball games through this week and announce its final roster sometime next week. For Gu Chang-mo to have any chance of punching his ticket to Hangzhou, he’ll need to have a successful live pitching session and a strong outing in the weekend’s Futures League game against Shanghai Commerce.