Kim Kwang-hyun has only got four special passes left

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Kim Kwang-hyun has only got four special passes left


SK Wyverns pitcher Kim Kwang-hyun reacts during a game against the LG Twins at Jamsil Baseball Stadium in southern Seoul on Tuesday. [YONHAP]

It’s been two years since SK Wyverns pitcher Kim Kwang-hyun returned to the mound after undergoing surgery, but the coaches still seem to be worried about his elbow.

In January 2017, Kim underwent surgery on his left elbow while the rest of his team headed off to spring training. Due to this, he had to miss the entire 2017 season, and when he returned last year, the Wyverns coaches strictly limited his innings and number of pitches to avoid further issues.

Under the coaches’ strict care, Kim had a successful return, picking up 11 wins and eight losses with a 2.98 ERA, helping the Wyverns win the Korean Series.

This season, under new manager Yeom Kyung-yup, Kim is once again limited to throw less than 100 pitches per game - although this year, he will be allowed to break that rule in five games.

“Kim Kwang-hyun is a player who really likes to throw,” Yeom said. “Depending on the situation, I told him that I’ll allow him to throw more than 100 pitches, about five times throughout the season.”

Kim already used one of his five golden tickets during the season opener. Against the KT Wiz on March 23, Kim tossed 110 pitches throughout six innings. As the Wyverns were tied at 4-4 when Kim left the mound, he had to walk away with a no-decision. The Wyverns ended up winning the game 7-4.

“I told Kwang-hyun that he has four chances left,” Yeom said. “When we’re in an uncertain situation, we’ll ask him and let him decide.”

Although Kim only has four more chances, he is not rushing to use them all up at once. Just like his team, Kim is having a solid season, even with his limited pitches. Kim has pitched in five or more innings in all 11 of the games he has started in.

By picking up a win in his most recent start against the LG Twins on Tuesday, Kim is now tied for the lead in wins this season with Josh Lindblom of the Doosan Bears, at seven. Throughout six innings, Kim gave up two runs while tossing 92 pitches.

Kim has picked up seven wins and a loss with a 3.25 ERA so far this season. In addition to the wins, Kim is also the leader in the KBO’s strikeouts, at 73. He is well ahead in this category, as Lindblom is ranked second with 66.

“These days, home runs don’t affect me much,” Kim said. “Since we have great batters, I pitch thinking that I can win, even after I give up three runs. Before, I hated giving up a hit or two. But now if I give away a hit early on, I tell myself that I am saving my pitches.”

Kim made his KBO debut with the Wyverns in 2007 and immediately made his presence known, recording a 3.62 ERA in his rookie season. Before he had to take a season off due to a surgery, Kim won the Korean Series three times with the Wyverns.

Also, from 2013 until his injury, Kim picked up double-digit wins for five straight seasons. As Kim recently picked up his seventh win, he is well on track to continue that streak for another year.

Throughout Kim’s 12 seasons with the Wyverns, he has picked up 126 wins, 72 losses and two holds, with a 3.37 ERA in 278 games.

“Since last year, our manager took really good care of me,” Kim said. “I really thought about how I can throw in more innings with a limited number of pitches. Since I was little, I always thought of being a consistent pitcher, and now, I think I’m slowly achieving that goal. So I feel good about it.”

As Kim only has four more 100-pitch passes left, he hopes that he can save one of them for the Korean Series. As for the other games, he’s saving them for summer.

“When it gets hot toward the second half of the season, I’ll try to do more,” Kim said. “I’ll pitch more innings so the pitchers who should be pitching after me can rest more.”

Personal stats are always important in salary negotiations, but this season Kim is focusing more on the team. Picking up wins is important, but he believes that those results come only if the team continues to dominate.

“Multi-wins come along when the team’s playing well,” Kim said. “I need to play in a lot of innings while tossing fewer pitches so our pitchers can rest and our fielders can play the game in a positive atmosphere. It’s good to win in games that I start in. This isn’t for my multi-win. I just want to pitch more innings to help my team head toward the right direction.”

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