Veteran reliever rides signature pitch to 1st win with new KBO club

SEOUL-- Unceremoniously released last year by the only team he'd pitched for his entire career, reliever Kim Jin-sung got his second chance from the LG Twins, which took a gamble on the 37-year-old righty that many thought was washed up.

And the move has paid dividends in the early going of the 2022 Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) season. Kim has allowed just three earned runs in 13 innings for a 2.08 ERA, and he collected his first win as a Twin on Tuesday.

He pitched a scoreless eighth inning against the Doosan Bears, working around a one-out double and keeping the Bears' lead at 3-2. That set the stage for the Twins' two-run rally in the bottom eighth, which sealed a 4-3 win that snapped their three-game losing skid.

Kim had two strikeouts in that eighth inning using his patented forkball. And he said afterward he needed a pep talk from a teammate, shortstop Oh Ji-hwan, to feel more conviction in the pitch before taking the mound.

"Ji-hwan said, 'Your forkball is really tough to hit,' and that made me feel pretty confident," Kim said. "I was able to get great results with that pitch. I am happy to get the first win on the new team. This is all thanks to my teammates."

Leading off that eighth, Kim Jae-hwan struck out swinging on a 0-2 forkball. Kim had homered earlier in the game off starter Adam Plutko but had no answer against Kim Jin-sung.

Heo Kyoung-min followed up with a double, but Kim retired the next batter, Kang Seung-ho, on a weak comebacker to the mound before fanning An Jae-seok on a 1-2 forkball.

Kim pitched for the NC Dinos from their inaugural season in 2013 to 2021. He had been their closer and a setup man, eating up high-leverage innings year in and year out. He was also an integral bullpen piece during the Dinos' run to their first Korean Series title in 2020.

But in 2021, Kim posted his career-worst 7.17 ERA across 37 2/3 innings. The Dinos waived him after the season but the Twins took a chance.

Prior to this year, with 514 strikeouts in 494 2/3 innings, Kim's 9.35 strikeouts per nine innings put him fifth among active KBO relievers with at least 300 innings pitched. He has 13 strikeouts in 13 innings so far this year.

Kim said he was able to feed off the energy of a sizable crowd at Jamsil. The two Seoul rivals played in front of 10,124 fans, the third-largest crowd on a weeknight Twins home game this season.

"I was pretty pumped up to pitch in front of fans, but was also nervous at the same time," Kim said. "I hope fans will continue to show up in big numbers and cheer us on. It will help us play even better."

Source: Yonhap News Agency