Casey Kelly, the “Jamsil Jesus” of the LG Twins, was once rumored to be traded. Now, however, he has received a call from manager Yoon Kyung-yeop, and it looks like the Major Leagues are interested in him.
Manager Yoon Kyung-yeop unusually brought up the topic of re-signing Kelly before the LG Twins faced the KT Wiz in the fourth game of the Korean Series (KS) of the 2023 Shinhan Bank SOL KBO League postseason at KT Wiz Park in Suwon on April 11.
Kelly is the KBO’s longest-serving foreign player, having worn an LG uniform for five years since the 2019 season. In his rookie season, Kelly appeared in 29 games and went 14-12 with a 2.55 ERA, forming a “one-two punch” with Tyler Wilson, who was also playing for LG at the time. Kelly’s partnership with LG continued the following year, as he went 15-7 with a 3.32 ERA.
Wilson left LG after the 22020 season, but Kelly stuck around and had a career-high season in 2021, going 13-8 with a 3.15 ERA in 30 games, followed by a 16-4 record with a 2.54 ERA in 27 games last season. It was the most wins, fewest losses, and lowest ERA since his KBO debut.
After amassing a whopping 58 wins in four seasons, Kelly was back in the pinstripes again this year. However, his regular season performance this year was decidedly disappointing. After going 1-2 with a 5.66 ERA in six starts in April, Kelly rebounded with a 4-1 record and 2.73 ERA in May. However, after a 4.73 ERA in June and a 5.11 ERA in July, Kelly began to falter.
As Kelly continued to struggle, fans began to call for her to be replaced. LG was not unaware of this. Head coach Yeom Kyung-yeop and general manager Cha Myung-seok had been debating over Kelly’s future. However, their choice was to stay. Not only did they have no confidence that they could get a better player than Kelly, but they also had faith that the team would rebound after four successful seasons.
The coaching staff and front office were right on target. Kelly started pitching better in August and bounced back perfectly in September, going 2-0 with a 1.42 ERA in four games. In his final start of the regular season, he tossed six innings of two-run ball against the Lotte Giants, finishing the year with a 10-7 record, his fifth straight double-digit win season, and a 3.73 ERA.
The resurgent Kelley has also been tremendous in the fall. While he didn’t get the win in Game 1 of the Korean Series against KT on July 7, he pitched 6⅓ innings of two-run ball (one earned run), and in Game 5 of the Korean Series on July 13, he pitched five innings of one-run ball (one earned run) to put LG back on the “throne” for the first time in 29 years, since 1994. In this year’s postseason, he has a 1.59 ERA in two games (11⅓ innings).
It was before his Game 5 appearance that manager Yoon Kyung-yeop brought up the idea of re-signing Kelly. At the time, LG had won Game 3 in a back-and-forth affair, giving the team some breathing room in its starting rotation. However, if they had lost Game 3, they would have been forced to operate the mound without a ‘backup’. This is where Kelly’s dedication won the hearts of his commanders.
“If we had lost (Game 3), Kim Yun-sik and Kelly would have gone in together. Kelly said, ‘If we win, I want to do a five-day rotation, but if we lose, we have no choice, and we have a bullpen, so I’ll go out with the idea of pitching four or five innings rather than seven.’ I think it’s a little bit of pressure after three days off. I can’t say ‘I don’t want to do it,’ but it’s a burden, but I have to do it because of the team situation, so it’s good to be in that mindset.”
“Without thinking about it, I’m going to go with Kelly next year. Of course, it depends on what the front office thinks, but I think having a foreign player who has a heart for the team is very helpful when a new foreign player comes in. I think Kelly can do his job well enough as a second starter,” he said. “I think the fact that we’ve developed a new pitch (forkball) means that we’ll have a much higher strikeout rate next season and less pitches.”
For now, Yoon and the LG front office are very positive about Kelly’s future with the team in 2024. However, there is a “variable” here. The American media is starting to take notice of Kelly’s performance. At 34 years old, Kelly is no longer young, but there’s no reason to believe he can’t play in the major leagues.
“Congratulations to the LG Twins on winning their first KBO championship in 29 years, and it was great to see former major leaguer Casey Kelly get the decisive win,” said MLB Network’s John Morosi on Thursday. “The 34-year-old Kelly, who went 10-7 with a 3.83 ERA this year, is eligible for free agency and is again an option for major league teams.” 카지노사이트
It’s unclear what kind of interest Kelly is receiving and whether he’ll be able to return to the majors. Morosi also declined to provide specifics. But the fact that the US media has taken notice of Kelly’s performance is significant. It could be interpreted as an indication that major league teams might be interested in him.
LG would love to have Kelly on board, but there’s no guarantee that it will happen. Realistically, he’s likely to stay in the KBO, but if a major league team is interested in him, it’s not out of the question that he could chase his “dream” at the end of his career. What’s clear is that Kelly, who was once rumored to be traded, is now the center of attention for the American media.