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I was worried about survival

KT Wiz pitcher Lee Sun-woo (24) transitioned from a nurturing player to an official player in May last year. He pitched well with an earned run average of 1.20 in 10 games in May, impressing KT manager Lee Kang-chul. He has strength in slider and two-seam fastball, and has outstanding control of various movements. Since then, he has been a starting pitcher as an alternative, showing off his performance as a starter and reliever.

22 games, two losses and an earned run average of 4.34. This is an ordinary record for someone. He had never dreamed of his debut victory. However, it was a happy season for Lee. As he played in two games in the 2019 season and three games in the 2020 season before joining the military, the 2023 season was the longest stay in the first division since his debut.

Lee never forgets his happiness in the last season and is sweating profusely to stay in the first division for a longer period of this season. "Lee did not make it to the first division spring camp, but he is preparing well," said Kim Tae-han, manager of the KT Futures team, who met at the KT Futures team's training site located in Iksan, North Jeolla Province on Sunday. "He seems to have no problem even if he takes the mound right now."

"It's an honor for you to say so," Lee told reporters after the training ended on Sunday. "I'm 100 percent higher as you said," smiling. "I'm okay to play now, but I still feel like I'm ahead of myself. I want to work harder and get into the first team as soon as possible."

Earlier in the day, Kim Tae-han threw a bullpen session in front of him. "I threw about 50 pitches. As there was a change in the strike zone, I tried to throw as much as I could to hit the line to take advantage of the change in the strike zone. You have to throw as many strikes as you can to survive. I checked my changeup as well," he recalled of his bullpen session.

After joining the military on Feb. 22, 2021, Lee fulfilled his military duty at the 15th Division located in Hwacheon County, Gangwon Province. After serving as an administrative officer, he was discharged from the military on Aug. 21, 2022. It was a miracle to think for himself that he was able to play 22 games in the first division last season, having played in five games in the first division before joining the military.

"After I was discharged from the military, I talked to coach Hong Seong-yong. Can I make it to the first team?" Lee said. "When the season begins, and looking back on that time, I think I have shown many things in the first team. I think I have shown that I can select players in the first team as well," Lee said. "Now, I want to make up for the shortcomings I felt at that time. I want to stay in the first team for a long time and play many innings. I will make the most of my strengths in the first team. I want to show better performance than last year."

KT's starting lineup for the 2024 season is strong. The four starters are solid, including William Cuevas, Wes Benjamin, Ko Young-pyo and Um Sang-baek. The fifth starter is vacant. Rookie of the Year ace Soh Hyung-joon will not be able to play in the first half. Coach Lee Kang-chul is considering rookie duo Won Sang-hyun and Yuk Cheong-myung, but he should be prepared for possible variables. Under such circumstances, Lee Sun-woo is also greedy to be a fifth starter.

Lee won a shutout last year. In a game against the Samsung Futures team on August 13 last year, Lee pitched nine innings of three hits, one walk, four strikeouts and no runs, to clinch the shutout. "It was the first time in my baseball career that I won a shutout. I felt great but it was very hard. Still, it was meaningful that I pitched in the 100th pitch that I wanted. I was very happy," Lee once said with a happy face.

He also played in four games as a substitute starter in the first division. Notably, in the second game of the doubleheader against the Suwon KIA Tigers on Oct. 4, his last appearance in this season, he showed off his potential by allowing four innings of seven hits (one homer) and two strikeouts and two runs. It was a game that demonstrated his strength as a starting pitcher.

"Of course, I want to be a fifth starter," Lee said. "However, whether I become a fifth starter or a bullpen, I want to stay in the first team for a long time. I want to show good performance."

"My change-up was weak last season. I want to make my change-up more sophisticated. I want to speed up, but it's not something I can do overnight. I want to sharpen my change-up and throw it with strength, whether it's left or right."

"My strength is that I throw fewer balls and play many innings," Lee said. "My pitching seam ratio exceeded 50 percent last season. Sliders accounted for 15 percent and changeups only 10 percent. I want to increase the ratio of breaking balls. I don't have the same pitching capacity as Jung Woo-young, but I am also a player who is agonizing over starting. I want to complete a breaking ball and create a winning ball. I will try to make more practice to get to the first team to survive in the first team only when I have a clear breaking ball."
Tuesday, February 13, 2024
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