Wyverns’ Kim digs in with forkball pitch

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Wyverns’ Kim digs in with forkball pitch

Kim Kwang-hyun of the SK Wyverns has switched from the changeup to the forkball, and the results have been positive for the 22-year-old southpaw.

Kim suffered through a tough three-game stretch in late May and was sent to the club’s minor league team in Gangjin, South Jeolla, for a four-game stint. Since returning to the Wyverns, Kim has won both his starts, with victories on May 30 against the Lotte Giants and on June 4 against the LG Twins. In giving up two runs on six hits in five and two-thirds innings against the Giants, Kim looked a little shaky at times. However, he was his former self against the Twins, giving up one run on four hits in six and one-third innings of work.

The biggest change for Kim has been the decision to drop the changeup in favor of the forkball. While Kim started to use the changeup as his main breaking ball last year, he has set it aside in favor of the forkball.

The reason is simple: While working with pitching coach Kim Sang-jin, the two realized that the changeup had altered Kim’s pitching form and balance, and that in turn was affecting his fastball.

Up until the 2008 season, Kim had relied heavily on his fastball and slider. To diversify his pitches, Kim began to throw the circle changeup starting last season. However, whenever he threw the circle changeup, Kim tended to drop his elbow a little on his delivery. Considering that his changeup was not that effective and it was also damaging his form, Kim decided to learn a new pitch.

One of Kim’s saviors was teammate Ken Kadokura, who offered to teach him how to throw the forkball, which Kim had thrown in high school. With the approval of his coach, Kadokura began working with Kim on the new pitch.

“The angle of the break on the forkball is a lot better than expected,” said SK catcher Park Kyung-wan.

While Park hasn’t signaled for the forkball in Kim’s last two starts, the pitcher’s switch is already paying off. During the June 6 start against the LG Twins, Kim didn’t throw it once in a total of 85 pitches. In the past, roughly 20 percent of his pitches had been changeups. Due to the change, the speed on Kim’s fastball has picked up, clocking in at as much as 152 kilometers (94 miles) per hour. This has allowed Kim the luxury of depending on his fastball and slider to dominate opposing batters.

“It feels good to be competing on the mound since the velocity on my fastball has picked up,” said Kim. “It’s fun to be working on polishing my forkball on a daily basis, and I’m also curious how batters will react to it.”

By Kim Dong-hwan [jason@joongang.co.kr]
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