Pitcher throws three straight shutouts upon first call-up of the season, Hanwha bullpen gets stronger “I wanted to make an impact”
Hanwha’s Lee Min-woo, 30, has made his presence felt in the first team for the first time this season, starting three straight games.
After joining KIA as a first round pick in 2015, Min-woo hasn’t appeared in the first team since 2017. Since then, he has pitched between the starting rotation and the bullpen, but hasn’t made much progress. That changed last year. On April 23, he was sent to Hanwha in a trade along with outfielder Lee Jin-young.
Lee pitched in both the starting and bullpen roles for Hanwha. From June 9 against Doosan, he was exclusively in the bullpen. On September 11 against SSG, he was sent down to the second team to finish the season. He finished the year with a record of 25-1 with a 6.25 ERA in 44⅔ innings pitched in 25 games.
This year, he started the year in the second team. Didn’t make the spring training roster. He continued to pitch in the Futures League, waiting for a call-up. In 32 games, he went 3-1 with a 5.40 ERA in 33 1/3 innings pitched.
The call finally came on September 7, when he pitched a no-hitter in the three games leading up to his call-up. He started on September 8 against Gochuk Kiwoom. In the eighth inning, with his team leading 4-3, he pitched ⅓ inning and allowed two runs (unearned) on one hit. A fielding error led to the unearned run.
In the second game of the doubleheader on the 9th, he showed his stability. In the bottom of the sixth inning with the score tied 1-1, Lee struck out the side on 11 pitches. In the top of the seventh, Noh Si-hwan hit a game-winning double to give Korea a 3-1 victory, and Min earned the save.
That was the end of Lee Min-woo’s stint, but Choi Won-ho pitched in game 10. With a 9-7 lead in the bottom of the seventh, he pitched another three-hit shutout inning. This time, he also got the hold. It was the first hold in four years since the Samsung Hold on June 11, 2019.
“Honestly, it was an unexpected three-game streak. It was my first first-team start, so I thought I would go out in a relaxed situation. I thought it would be a streak, but I didn’t think it would be a three-game streak.”
He never expected to pitch on the 10th. “The bullpen called me (when they were going to change pitchers), and I thought, ‘Not me,’ but they told me to warm up. I was surprised (laughs). I decided to go out and make an impact, and I went out confidently,” he explains.
That mindset paid off.
Lee Min-woo is more eager to be a bullpen pitcher than a starter. “When I started at KIA, I realized that I wanted to pitch in the bullpen. I threw long pitches (as a starter) and it didn’t end well. In the bullpen, you can use up your power in a short period of time, one inning at a time. That’s why the bullpen is better.”
Choi Won-ho was quick to recognize Min-woo’s tendencies. When he was the manager of the second team last year, he realized that Min-woo preferred to pitch in the bullpen and was a good match for bullpen pitchers, so he gave him a relief appearance.
“Personally, I think Min-woo throws best in tight situations, and to improve his performance, it’s better to use him in the bullpen in short one-inning stints,” Choi said. “He has a good curveball and cutter. He has a good curveball and a good cutter. He made a mistake in his first appearance, but he pitched well in all three games.” 스포츠토토
Lee took the mound against Doosan in Jamsil on April 12 after a day off. He pitched with the bases loaded and the score tied at 3-3. He was nervous and gave up a run on a wild pitch when Kim Jae-ho was batting. He then gave up a sacrifice fly to Kim Jae-ho. That was it for the run. He walked Yang Seok-hwan, but Yang grounded out to the second baseman and struck out Kim Jae-hwan. One inning, one hit, one strikeout, no runs.
Lee Min-woo said, “When I was in the second team, when I thought it was time to move up, I was out of shape and didn’t pitch well, and that’s how I got to September. I think my timing was off about three times. My goal is to stay in the first team for the rest of the season because it’s been hard. And next year, I want to be in the first team from the start of the season.”