“Can you come back again?”…’Old disciple’ wins first start, ‘152-win’ legend smiles broadly

“Can you please come back?”

Lotte Giants’ Shim Jae-min took the mound against the KIA Tigers of the 2023 Shinhan Bank SOL KBO League at Gwangju-Kia Champions Field on March 13 and pitched five innings of three-hit ball with two walks and two strikeouts, allowing one run (one earned) to earn his second win of the season.

After being selected with the first overall pick in the 2014 Korean Baseball Organization (KBO) First-Year Player Draft, Sim has spent his professional career splitting time between the starting rotation and the bullpen. In fact, he’s been more of a bullpen pitcher, but he’s also taken the mound as a starter when the team needs him, starting nine games in his career.

Until now, Shim had never gotten the win in a start, but on April 13, he pitched five innings of one run (one earned) against KIA, and just in time for a rain delay in Gwangju, he threw a complete game for his first win in 10 years as a professional.

Shim joined KT in 2014 and moved to Lotte via trade last year. Manager Lee Kang-cheol, his “former mentor,” smiled broadly when he saw his “pupil” come to greet him before the game on the 21st, as if he had been watching him pitch. In response to Shim’s greeting, Lee Kang-chul said, “You’re still helping me. You’re the best,” and gave him a thumbs-up.

Over the years, Lotte and KT have conducted countless trades. However, the players who came over from KT did not make much of an impact in Lotte, while most of the players who moved from Lotte to KT blossomed. In particular, right-handed bullpen pitcher Park Si-young helped KT win its first integrated championship, and Lee Ho-yeon, Kim Jun-tae, and Shin Bon-ki are currently performing well after being traded.

This time, however, Lee couldn’t hide his smile as his departed protégé performed well. “He threw well. It was really good. It reminded me of the game against the LG Twins when I was a starter in the past,” he praised. The manager even joked with Shim, “Can you come back again?” he asked.

Park Si-young, who helped the franchise win its first integrated title last year, is not expected to return this season. Park was diagnosed with elbow ligament damage last year, and after undergoing surgery, her rehabilitation went back to ‘zero’. “I’m starting rehab again. They say that sometimes it happens,” he said, ruling out a return this season.

There was some good news, though. The rehabilitation of So Min-joon, who was sidelined after undergoing Tommy John surgery, and Uhm Sang-baek, who was recently sidelined with a rib injury, is going very well. “I think (So) is doing well now. He came to the ballpark today as well. (He’s) not pitching, but he’s still doing lower-body exercises to make sure his balance doesn’t get out of whack,” Lee said.

Uhm could be a trump card in the fall if KT qualifies for the postseason in second place. “I think (Uhm) Sang-baek can come to the postseason if he plays well. His bones are almost fused together. They say that liquid comes out when it’s attached, and it’s starting to come out of the bone.”캡틴토토

Meanwhile, KT organized its starting lineup as follows: Kim Min-hyuk (right fielder), Hwang Jae-gyun (third baseman), Kang Baek-ho (designated hitter), Park Byung-ho (first baseman), Anthony Alford (left fielder), Jang Sung-woo (catcher), Bae Jeong-dae (center fielder), Kim Sang-soo (shortstop), and Oh Yoon-seok (second baseman).

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