I don’t see how he can not make the team, considering how short they are in lefthanded relief. On the other hand, that seems to rule out starting, and like Trey Hodges I think that’s where his future, if any, lies. Also like Hodges, Bong was terrific early in the season; his ERA was as low as 1.10 on May 3. But pretty soon his ERA started to balloon, and like Hodges he pitched less and less. In his case, I’m tempted to see it as caused by a lack of work rather than an injury.
Though a lefty, Bong was used as a traditional long and middle reliever in 2003, not as a LOOGY. However, he showed real signs of LOOGY potential, with 22 strikeouts in only 19 1/3 IP (7 walks) against lefties, compared to just 25 in in 37.2 (with 24 walks) against righties. That’s something to keep in mind, but it’s a small sample size.
The last thing to remember is that Bong’s only been a pitcher since 1998; he was an outfielder in Korea. A lot of his prospect talk has always been based upon potential rather than performance; his minor league numbers are good, but not great. (Okay, he put up a 2.18 ERA in Myrtle Beach in 2000, but who didn’t?) It would be best, in my opinion, to let him conquer Richmond first and then call him up, but the Braves may not have that option.
(Note: According to this site, Jung Bong means “middle staff” in Korean. If that’s not an omen…)