Ex-major leaguer finds success after years of mediocrity

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Ex-major leaguer finds success after years of mediocrity

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Doosan Bears pitcher Kim Sun-woo appears against the Lotte Giants at Seoul’s Jamsil Baseball Stadium on Sunday, dominating the team on his way to a complete game shutout. [YONHAP]


Since making his KBO debut in 2008 after mixed results in the major leagues, Kim Sun-woo hadn’t exactly wowed Doosan Bears fans before he set out to reinvent himself this season.

But this year, Kim is setting out to restore his reputation.

On Sunday, Kim collected his third win of the season with a 94-pitch complete-game shutout of the Lotte Giants hitters. It was his first shutout in Korea and the first among Korean pitchers this season.

What’s more impressive is that Kim’s 1.76 ERA is leading the league and he hasn’t allowed a run in his last 16 innings pitched.

Kim left Korea 14 years ago, hoping to gain stardom in the MLB.

After spending four years in the minors, he made his major league debut in 2001 with the Boston Red Sox.

Kim stayed in the big leagues for five more seasons, playing for the Montreal Expos, Colorado Rockies and Cincinnati Reds. In his six-season tenure in the MLB, he put together a 13-13 record with a 5.31 ERA.

When Kim returned to Korea with the Bears, he had hoped his big league experience would help him dominate Korean hitters. Quite the opposite ensued.

In his debut season, the right-handed pitcher didn’t impress, putting up a 6-7 record with a 4.25 ERA.

After his disappointing KBO debut season, Kim improved over the next two years, but still failed to meet expectations, having never recorded an ERA lower than 4.00 since his arrival.

He collected 11 wins with a 5.11 ERA in 2009 and had 13 wins with a 4.02 ERA last year, meaning he has relied more on the Bears offense than on his ability to earn wins.

Fans rightly expected more from the former major leaguer.

And this season they’re finally getting it.

The numbers are indeed impressive for the 34-year-old, the oldest starting pitcher in the KBO.

While veteran pitchers Son Min-han of the Lotte Giants and Park Myung-hwan of the LG Twins are close to calling it a career, Kim is adjusting to the game by changing his pitching style.

Three years ago, his main weapon was the fastball, a vulnerable pitch when lacking control.

And although Kim was throwing 153-kilometer-per-hour (95 miles per hour) fastballs, his lack of accuracy made life relatively easy for opposing batters.

It wasn’t until he added a two-seam fastball last year and breaking balls this year that Kim found success in Korea.

Kim’s main pitches are now a combination of a lethal slider and tricky changeup. The two pitches have proven to be a deadly tandem.

In last Sunday’s game against the Giants, he threw 26 fastballs, 33 sliders, 25 changeups and 10 other breaking balls.

“I should have learned early that pitching is not only about speed and power,” Kim told Ilgan Sports, the JoongAng Ilbo’s daily sports newspaper.

“Now I can throw sharp breaking balls because I know how to use my lower body and release the ball from a high point.”


By Kim Dong-hwan, Joo Kyung-don [kjoo@joongang.co.kr]

한글 관련 기사 [일간스포츠]
에이스 김선우, 한국리그 첫 완봉승

두산 김선우(34)가 국내 복귀 첫 완봉승을 거두며 팀 3연패를 끊었다.

김선우는 8일 잠실 롯데전에 선발등판, 9이닝 7피안타 3탈삼진 1볼넷 2사사구를 기록하며 완봉승을 거뒀다. 시즌 3승째. 이날 완봉은 국내 무대 두 번째 완투(2010년 8월 24일·잠실 LG전)이자 첫 완봉승이다. 김선우는 메이저리그에서도 지난 2005년 9월 25일 콜로라도 시절 샌프란시스코전서 4피안타만 허용하며 완봉승을 거둔 바 있다.

두산 선수로는 리오스(2007년 7월31일 잠실 한화전) 이후 1371만에 완봉승을 올린 투수가 됐다. 김선우는 최근 16이닝 연속 무실점의 호투로 평균자책점을 1.76까지 끌어내려 부문 선두로 올라섰다.

김선우는 이날 94개의 공만으로 롯데 타선을 셧아웃했다. 직구 구속은 최고 145km에 그쳤지만 스트라이크존에 낮게 들어가는 슬라이더와 체인지업 등 변화구 제구가 돋보였다. 3개의 병살타를 유도하는 등 위기관리 능력도 돋보였다.

-메이저리그에 이어 한국 무대에서도 완봉승을 거둔 투수가 됐다.
"메이저리그에서 한 번 거뒀고 마이너리그에서도 트리플A와 더블A에서 각각 한 번씩 완봉승을 챙겼다. 오늘까지 총 4번째 완봉을 거둔 셈이다."

-한국리그 첫 완봉승 느낌은?
"완봉승은 항상 기분 좋다. 정면타구나 병살이 자주 나오는 등 운이 좋았다. 특히 야수들의 병살 플레이가 나를 구했다."

-2005년 메이저리그에서 완봉과 비교하면.
"그때는 직구도 뿌리면서 강타자들 나오면 직구 자신있게 때렸다. 지금은 나이가 들었다. 변화구 위주로 던졌다."

-어떤 투구가 주효했나.
"롯데가 장타율이 높아서 되도록 낮은 변화구를 빠른 패턴으로 주로 던졌던 것이 주효했다."

-슬라이더와 체인지업을 많이 던졌는데.
"슬라이더가 제구가 잘 됐다. 바깥쪽을 노리는 것을 알고 있지만 볼과 배합을 잘해서 던졌다. 포크볼도 던졌다.

-최근 16이닝 무실점인데.
"나 혼자가 아닌, 야수들이 정말 강하기 때문에 가능했다. 변화구로 내야 땅볼을 유도하려고 노력했다."

-타점이 높아진 것 같다
"작년에 거의 사이드암스로 식으로 던져서, 팔꿈치 무리가 왔다. 스프링캠프서 타점을 높이려고 노력했다."

-목표를 상향조정해야 하는 것 아닌가.
"언젠가는 무너지는 날도 있을 것이다. 큰 욕심 없이 3점 대 평균자책점에 집중하겠다."

-어버이날인데, 부친에게 인사는.
"아버지는 내가 경기할때 야구장 못오시고 긴장하신다. 오늘 어버이날을 맞아 진심으로 사랑한다고 말하고 싶다."

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