Lim escapes shaky Major League debut

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Lim escapes shaky Major League debut


Chicago Cubs relief pitcher Lim Chang-yong delivers during the seventh inning of a game Saturday against the Milwaukee Brewers in Chicago. It was the Major League debut for the 37-year-old, who allowed a hit and a walk over two-thirds of an inning. [AP/NEWSIS]

Lim Chang-yong had long promised that his first Major League pitch would be a fastball, a sign of the confidence the poker-faced pitcher had even when it seemed unlikely that he would ever get the opportunity.

He did more than keep his promise on Saturday, throwing 10 straight fastballs in his first appearance with the Chicago Cubs at storied Wrigley Field.

The 37-year-old Major League rookie allowed a hit and a walk over two-thirds of an inning of bullpen work against the Milwaukee Brewers.

“I tried to give the first batter a fastball on every pitch,” Lim said at a media briefing with a swarm of Korean reporters, many of whom originally came to the United States to cover Ryu Hyun-jin of the Los Angeles Dodgers.

“It was my first time on the mound [in the Major League], so I was a little erratic,” Lim said.

Called into the game in the seventh inning with one out and the Cubs trailing, 4-3, Lim threw a 146 kilometer per hour (91 mph) fastball to Sean Halton. It was a ball. His next seven pitches were all fastballs.

Halton walked and the next batter, Norichika Aoki, saw two more fastballs from Lim, one for a strike. He then threw a changeup, the only breaking that delivered in the game. Aoki, Lim’s former teammate with the Tokyo Yakult Swallows, hit a fastball off Lim through the left side of the infield for a single, sending Halton to second base.

Lim escaped the inning by getting Brewers infielder Jean Segura to hit into a double play.

Milwaukee went on to win, 5-3.

The big league proved to be tough for Lim, who recorded a solid 0.79 ERA in his 11 1/3 innings at Iowa, the Cubs’ Triple-A affiliate.

Still, the rocky debut could not detract from the excitement and enjoyment of his dream-come-true moment, which the Gwangju native had played over and over in his mind since he first picked up a baseball.

His 18-year stint in professional baseball, including five stellar years in Japan, was, in a way, a process to realize his childhood dream of playing in the big leagues.

But there was no flicker of emotion - at least not on the surface. “I spoke to myself that, ‘Wow, this is the beginning,’” he said, recalling the moment when he first stood on the mound Saturday.

The side-arm pitcher made it onto the 40-man roster of the Cubs on Wednesday after several months in the minor leagues. Lim, who reached a two-year deal with the Cubs in December, pitched 22 1/3 innings in 21 games with Class A, Double-A and Triple-A teams. He compiled an ERA of 1.61.

Lim had having Tommy John ligament replacement surgery last year, and he acknowledged that he has plenty of room for improvement.

“I think I am not 100 percent yet. Maybe 80 percent? It will get better gradually, I think,” he said.


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