Veteran pitchers enjoying new experience on KBO’s biggest stage

November 07, 2022

INCHEON, Nov. 7 (Yonhap) — Over his 11-year career in South Korean baseball, SSG Landers right-hander Lee Tae-yang had never pitched in a Korean Series game until Saturday. And that debut in the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) championship round, however short, will stay with him a long time.

Lee threw a scoreless inning in relief in Game 4, though the Landers fell to the Kiwoom Heroes 6-3 at Gocheok Sky Dome in Seoul. The best-of-seven series is now knotted at two games apiece.

Lee, who split his regular season between the rotation and the bullpen, was a picture of calm on the hill, but said Monday he was anything but inside.

“This was a Korean Series game after all. I was really nervous,” Lee told reporters before Game 5 Monday at Incheon SSG Landers Field in Incheon, just west of Seoul. “But I felt so proud of myself to be pitching in the Korean Series.”

Lee, 32, spent the first seven seasons of his career with the lowly Hanwha Eagles, a perennial doormat of a team that made the postseason just once during Lee’s time, in 2018. They were eliminated in the first round then.

“I have never pitched this late in any season. My body feels a little weird,” Lee said with a smile. “I ran out of breath coming up the stairs from the bullpen at Gocheok.”

Teams typically shorten their rotation during postseasons, and someone like Lee, a part-time starter in the regular season, usually is moved to the bullpen. Lee said he doesn’t mind the setup.

“I am glad our starters have been so good all series and I don’t have to pitch that much now,” Lee said. “It’d be nice to be a hero at some point, but I think I’d be too nervous.”

Another starter-turned-reliever in the Landers bullpen, Park Jong-hun, has pitched twice this series, in Games 3 and 4. Park said he had never pitched on consecutive days until those two outings, in which he made 48 pitches over two scoreless innings but walked four.

“I can now relate to relievers. What they do on a regular basis is incredible,” Park said. “I think I made life too difficult for myself with all those walks. I should try to pitch a cleaner game next time.”

Park, who was a reliever earlier in his 11-year career, said he doesn’t have trouble getting warmed up on a short notice in the pen.

“I’ve been having a lot of fun pitching in relief this series,” Park said. “I couldn’t care less about getting saves or padding my own stats. I just want to help the team win.”