Korea’s Texas Ranger could be headed for a comebackIn baseball, like poker, you must have nerves of steel and ice-cold blood in your veins. This applies especially to pitchers. Occasionally the camera will catch a glimpse of a pitcher who has been yanked, kicking the Gatorade tray and throwing his glove at the wall in disgust. It’s a part of the game that fans love to see. Blowing up in the dugout is OK, but a pitcher should never lose it when he is on the mound. The moment he does that, he is finished for good.
Mike Mussina comes to mind when I think of pitchers who can keep a cool head even when they are in a jam. Mussina does not mind working from behind the count, and he often does, because he believes in his stuff and he has the ability to throw an unexpected ball over the plate. Baek In-cheon, a retired baseball player and former coach of the Lotte Giants, told me once, “When you see a pitcher breaking down, that’s when the opposing team smells blood. You are practically done.”
Having watched Park Chan-ho play three games, I really like what I’ve seen so far. Park managed to clinch his first victory against Seattle in his third start of the season last Friday, blanking the Mariners over seven innings. He may not have put on a strike-out show, and he gave up a fair share of hits, eight in total, throughout the game, but by keeping the Mariners’ hits scattered apart, Park kept them off the scoreboard.
It probably helped that Park has a 1.35 ERA at Safeco Field, his lowest at any stadium, and that the Mariners are currently in a drought. Supported by five runs early in the game, I saw a confident Park out there who wasn’t afraid to go after batters. As a result of Park’s poise, the Mariners were 0 for 6 with runners in scoring position. Park started to use his breaking ball from the third inning effectively, which is something he isn’t really known for.
Park had good control of his breaking ball, and he used it not only effectively, but unexpectedly, on fastball counts. A breaking ball thrown on a fastball count can turn a batter’s legs into spaghetti. He either just freezes up or is knocked totally off his timing, and ends up popping up or grounding out. That’s what happened to the Mariners’ lineup on Friday.
Needless to say, Park’s fastball was clocked in the low 90s, which helped tremendously in working the Mariners’ lineup, as it made his change-up an even more valuable weapon.
Park’s only win last season also came in April at Safeco Field. But this time my hopes are high that Park will be able to make up some of the ground he has lost in the past two years. “He’s a guy that everybody in our clubhouse pulls for, because they know what he has gone through,” said Rangers skipper Buck Showalter in a postgame interview.
The Rangers know that it will be hard to trade Park because of his price tag and history of injuries. They would love to see him become his old self. Park knows this might be the last chance to revive his career. So far, he looks well on his way to resurrection.
by Brian Lee
with the Korea JoongAng Daily
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