Rejuvenated Seo raises new-year expectations

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Rejuvenated Seo raises new-year expectations

Gwangju Kia Tigers pitcher Seo Jae-weong is coming off his best season in the KBO, but says there is still room for improvement.

“If I had to grade myself on my performance last season, I would give myself a 70 out of 100,” Seo told the JoongAng Ilbo on Tuesday.

The 33-year-old veteran broke into the big leagues with the New York Mets in 2002 and amassed a 38-49 record with a 4.85 ERA over six seasons with three MLB clubs.

The Gwangju native inked a deal with his hometown team, the Kia Tigers, in the winter of 2007 with much fanfare.

However, the veteran pitcher was considered a big disappointment. In his first two years with the Tigers he went 10-9 with a 5.10 ERA. Seo’s struggles were largely due to lingering pain in his throwing elbow.

Seo managed a rebound season in the KBO this year, going 9-7 with a much improved 3.34 ERA. He said he is not satisfied, however, because the Tigers finished fifth overall this year and failed to reach the postseason.

The biggest reason for Seo’s turnaround was his decision to change his pitching repertoire. During his stay in the MLB, Seo had an effective changeup. He often used the pitch to get out of jams, but as his velocity dropped off and he began to suffer from injuries, his changeup began to lose its effectiveness. Seo learned how to throw a slider in place of his changeup in preparation for the 2010 season.

“I felt like I needed to make adjustments,” said Seo. “I lowered the angle of my throwing motion, making it easier to throw sliders.”

He also made the two-seam fastball his go-to pitch.

“I used to throw the two-seam fastball in the past, but had not used it until [recently],” said Seo. “I relied heavily on my slider in the first half of the season and as batters began to adjust to my repertoire, I tweaked it a little.”

As a result of his improved play, Seo’s annual salary of 300 million won ($261,300), has increased by 30 million won this offseason.

Having found a solution to overcome his ailing elbow and coming off a confidence-boosting season, Seo is looking forward to the 2011 campaign with high expectations.

“In 2009, our team won the Korean Series, but in all honesty, I did not contribute much to the team,” said Seo. “I did well this year, but our team failed to reach the postseason. My goal for next season is clear, I want to contribute with solid outings to help Kia to a winning season.”

By Kim Hyo-kyung []
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