“I’m throwing like a human now.”

Doosan Bears right-hander Kim Kang-ryul, 35, laughs when asked about his recent performance. Kim is now in his 16th year of professional baseball, having joined Doosan in 2007 after graduating from Gyeonggi University. He was known as a hard-hitting fastball prospect as a rookie, but it took him a while to become a first-team regular due to his control issues. In 2017, he pitched 89 innings in 70 games, and in 2018, he pitched 76 innings in 65 games, and in 2021, he collected 21 saves as a closer. He broke out as an athlete in his 30s, but it took a while for him to fill his free agent roster spot, as he tore both of his Achilles tendons in quick succession and had to go under the knife twice.

This year, at the age of 35, Kim was eligible to become a free agent for the first time in his life if he played a healthy season. However, he was plagued by pain in his left pelvis since spring training in Australia. He threw the ball while taking care of himself, but as a result of enduring the pain in his back, his shoulder also became abnormal. He missed 73 days of the first team roster to get healthy. Even if I played until the end of the season, there were not enough free agent sign-ups for about a month, so I had to postpone exercising my lifetime free agent rights until next season.

For a pitcher in his mid-30s, having to delay his free agency rights by a year is certainly not a good thing, but it has made Kim’s life easier. With the pressure of pre-free agency off his mind, he took better care of his body and prepared for the second half of the season, and it paid off. In the first half of the season, he had one save, four innings pitched, and a 13.50 ERA in six games; in the second half, he had one win, two saves, 15 innings pitched, and a 2.40 ERA in 16 games.

Doosan manager Lee Seung-yeop said, “Kim Kang-ryul had some hip problems since camp. He also had a bad shoulder, so we couldn’t start the season together. He hasn’t been feeling well, but he’s been performing better lately. He’s been throwing good pitches, and he’s been a big help in the bullpen without (Park) Chi-gook. If he doesn’t get sick, he can do a good job behind the plate.”

Doosan pitching coach Kwon Myung-cheol, who has watched and managed Kim from the sidelines since the second team, agreed. “When I moved from the second team to the first team, I gave pitching coach Kim Sang-jin a mission: ‘Let (Kim) throw about 40 pitches.’ That meant that as soon as he was in shape to throw 40 pitches in the second team, I would put him in the first team. It took him a while to find his balance because his shoulder wasn’t good, but I think he’s almost back to where he was when he was good. I hope he can help the pitching staff as the eldest brother at the end. We will continue to take care of him and let him throw the ball like he is now.”

Reflecting on his eventful season, Kim confessed, “I think this year was the hardest I’ve ever played baseball.” He said, “My time in the second team was hard. I’m older now, and it was an important season, but I didn’t feel well from the beginning of camp. I tried to do something even though I didn’t feel well, but there was a lot of stress because I didn’t feel well. Coach Kwon Myung-cheol and Coach Kim Sang-jin were in the second team, and that gave me the willpower. When Coach Kwon Myung-cheol moved up to the first team and I moved up to the first team, Coach Kwon took care of me because he knew my physical condition. He adjusted my matches to be few and far between, and I think I got a little bit of balance. Once I cleared my mind and said, “Let’s keep going,” I think I got better.

He’d be lying if he said he wasn’t upset that his free agency season was wasted, but he’s glad to be able to contribute to the team’s top-five fight, even if it’s late in the game. He plans to do his best until the end of the season to share the burden of the juniors, including Hong Gun-hee, Kim Myung-shin, Chung Chul-won, and Park Chi-guk, who struggled in the first half of the season.

“Part of me feels fortunate to have survived (the second half),” Kim said. It’s a little better than the worst I thought it would be. I’m just trying to do well in the remaining matches. Personally, I’m trying to clear my mind and prepare for next year. There are no more juniors in the pitching group who have been playing together since they were young, and only (Hong) Gun-hee and (Kim) Myung-shin are in their 30s. There is a big age gap with the juniors, and as a senior, I have to lead and perform well in the game, but I couldn’t do that.”

Doosan went on a six-game winning streak to climb from sixth to fourth place. They will need Kim’s steady pitching in the remaining 23 games. With Park Chi-kook set to rejoin the first team soon after shaking off shoulder pain, and the recent form of Lee Young-ha and Choi Ji-kang, Doosan’s back door is not a concern.메이저사이트

Kim Kang-ryul said, “I think the come-from-behind win against SSG in Jamsil (on the 14th) was a big boost for the team, and if we had lost then, I think the mood would have sunk. There’s no tension in the squad, and the atmosphere is good. I think it’s because we’ve always played in that kind of atmosphere. Now my biggest hope is that I don’t get injured, that I don’t miss any games, and that I finish the season well.”

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