With blister healing, Heroes’ ace itching for return in Korean Series

November 04, 2022

SEOUL, Nov. 4 (Yonhap) — With a nagging blister on his finger healing, Kiwoom Heroes ace An Woo-jin said Friday he can’t wait to get back on the mound.

An started Game 1 of the Korean Series against the SSG Landers on Tuesday, but was lifted after just 2 2/3 innings and 58 pitches after the blister on his right middle finger popped. He was visibly frustrated as he was walking off the field with a bloody finger.

Kiwoom Heroes starter An Woo-jin pitches against the SSG Landers during the bottom of the first inning of Game 1 of the Korean Series at Incheon SSG Landers Field in Incheon, 30 kilometers west of Seoul, on Nov. 1, 2022. (Yonhap)hide captionpreviousnext

The hard-throwing right-hander had experienced similar problems earlier in the postseason but had never missed a turn or been pulled in early innings because of that.

If An’s finger is fully healed, he is in line to start Game 4 on Saturday at Gocheok Sky Dome in Seoul on three days’ rest. The best-of-seven series is now tied at 1-1.

“Nothing is set in stone as far as when my next outing will be, but I’d love to go back out there and pitch again as soon as possible,” An told reporters at the dome after his pregame workout Friday. “Some new skin has already grown in the area, and I think it’s healing pretty well.”

An said his finger felt fine after playing some catch Friday and he didn’t feel much fatigue despite having thrown 20 2/3 innings in just over two weeks this postseason.

“My body feels great. I am just worried about my finger,” An said. “I don’t know how the finger will be when I pitch at full speed in game conditions.”

An had been a reliever earlier in his Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) career before evolving into one of the league’s most dominant starters. If he can’t throw too many innings this series because of his finger issues, it’s possible the Heroes may use him in a relief role.

“I’d love to remain in the starting rotation,” An said. “But if my finger doesn’t heal 100 percent, I’d be willing to pitch out of the bullpen as the last resort. It’s not something we’ve talked about internally yet,”

In the regular season, An led the KBO with 224 strikeouts and a 2.11 ERA in 30 starts.