He blossomed as a late bloomer with exceptional work ethic, but an unexpected slump forced him to surrender his free agency rights. Add to that the trials of injury.

But no more. Samsung’s veteran outfielder Kim Heon-gon (35) is back. Samsung added Kim to its first-team roster ahead of its game against Lotte at Munsu Stadium in Ulsan on May 5. After being sidelined with a back injury, Kim finally made the first team roster for the first time this season.

The seventh-year pro made the transition to a full-time outfielder in 2017 and had the best year of his career in 2018, hitting .300 with 11 home runs, 71 RBIs and 22 stolen bases in 141 games. After hitting .297 with five home runs, 46 RBIs, and 10 doubles in 2019, .248 with three home runs, 34 RBIs, and seven doubles in 2020, and .281 with four home runs, 27 RBIs, and five doubles in 2021, Kim fell into one of his worst hitting slumps last year, batting just .192 with one home run and 20 RBIs. The humiliation of going 43 consecutive at-bats without a hit forced him into the spotlight, and he was so traumatized that he decided not to seek free agency after the season.안전놀이터

This time, he was hit with another injury. A back injury forced Kim to dedicate himself to rehabilitation, and he was only able to return to the first team in September. He played five games in the Futures League to get his feet wet.

Samsung head coach Park Jin-man encouraged Kim to return to the first team after a long rehabilitation. “He’s been through a lot. He underwent several procedures and had a long rehabilitation period,” Park said. “At the Futures, they said his movement was good. We have to think about what he has done for the team and also think about next year. We will have to play the last month to get a feel for it.” Park Jin-man added, “He is a very good player in defense and has a good shoulder throwing ability, so we will use him according to the situation.”

Kim made his first appearance for the first team in the top of the ninth inning as a pinch hitter. He flied out to second base. He didn’t get a hit from the first pitch. It will be interesting to see when Kim, who has already accumulated 600 career hits, will get his first hit back and his 601st career hit. His task for the rest of the month will be to signal a resurgence.

Meanwhile, Samsung also removed right-handed slugger Kim Dong-yeop from the first team roster on April 4. Manager Park Jin-man explained the decision to remove Kim from the first-team roster, saying, “We decided to remove Kim from the first-team roster based on the judgment that his senses are not very good when he goes out as a designated hitter or pinch-hitter.” Kim is batting .264 with five home runs and 18 RBIs in 58 games this season, and his home run against Sasik Lotte on June 28 remains his last home run of the season.

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