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Off to impressive start in 2nd season, right-hander says he's still learning

2018/05/17 09:11

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SEOUL, May 17 (Yonhap) -- Off to an impressive start in his second Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) season, Doosan Bears' right-hander Park Chi-guk says he remains a work in progress, someone who's still trying to figure out the intricacies of the game.

And given the way Park has been pitching so far in 2018, the opposing hitters will also have to figure out how to solve this 20-year-old.

Park, a right-hander with a sidearm delivery, tossed one perfect inning in relief in the Bears' 5-3 win over the SK Wyverns on Wednesday. He faced the heart of the order, featuring the league's two-best home run hitters, Choi Jeong (18 homers) and Jamie Romak (13).

Park gave Choi a steady dose of fastballs and curves and got him to fly out to right field after a six-pitch at-bat. Romak, who also leads the KBO in on-base-plus-slugging percentage (OPS) with 1.125, grounded out to second after seeing three fastballs.

Park then struck out Lee Jae-won on three pitches.

In this file photo from May 1, 2018, Park Chi-guk of the Doosan Bears delivers a pitch against the KT Wiz in a Korea Baseball Organization regular season game at Jamsil Stadium in Seoul. (Yonhap) In this file photo from May 1, 2018, Park Chi-guk of the Doosan Bears delivers a pitch against the KT Wiz in a Korea Baseball Organization regular season game at Jamsil Stadium in Seoul. (Yonhap)

"I guess I've gotten used to pro ball," Park said with a smile after the game. He's now in his second season out of high school.

The outing was an apt microcosm of how well Park has performed and how much trust the Bears have in him this year -- enough to send him out against two of the KBO's premier sluggers while protecting a two-run lead.

Park leads all KBO pitchers this year with 24 appearances. He has a 2.70 ERA over 23 1/3 innings, with 22 strikeouts against eight walks. He has yet to allow a home run this year.

And so far in May, Park hasn't allowed a run in six appearances, a span of 7 1/3 innings.

Park has already made three more appearances than last year and is closing in on the 32 innings that he pitched in 2016. But it's not just the number of games or innings. It's the situations in which he's pitching that have been the major difference.

"Last year, I didn't pitch a lot, and when I did, it was usually in blowouts," Park said. "This year, I've been getting into many close games, and that has fuelled my competitive fire. But I still have so much to learn. I am learning with every game, and I pick up things just by watching from the bullpen."

   Park said it helps to have the guidance of his former minor league manager Lee Kang-chul, a former All-Star pitcher who is now the Bears' bench coach.

"When he was the manager in the minors last year, I learned how to maintain my balance and how to throw curves from him," Park said. "At this year's spring training, he taught me how to throw changeups."

   Park is only throwing his changeups 6.1 percent of the time. The fastball and the curve remain his bread-and-butter. Park said he's still cautious about throwing a changeup against left-handed hitters, though it can be an effective weapon if he can attack the outside corner with it.

"Oddly, I struggle with my changeup command whenever I face left-handed hitters," he said. "Once I get more comfortable with that pitch against lefties, I will start posting even better numbers."

   jeeho@yna.co.kr

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