When Sohn Hyuk, general manager of the Hanwha Eagles, was working as pitching coach for the SK Wyverns 안전놀이터 (now SSG Landers) in 2017, he admired the curve of right-hander Lee Seung-jin (28, Doosan Bears) at the finishing camp. At the time, General Manager Son highly appreciated the value, saying, “There are many players who throw curves, but there are not many pitchers who can throw curves like this.”
Lee Seung-jin learned the knuckle curve grip from coach Kim Gyeong-tae (current LG Twins bullpen coach) when he was a rookie. He did not use it in practice, but threw this curve as a joke at the 2017 finish camp, and General Manager Son caught this shot by accident. General manager Sohn said, “Why didn’t you use that good curve?”
A word from General Manager Sohn became a turning point in Lee Seung-jin’s baseball life. The curve has become Lee Seung-jin’s representative weapon, and after being traded to Doosan in 2020, the curve has become a much more powerful pitch as the speed of the fastball jumped to 150 km. In 2021, he had a career high season with 1 win, 2 saves, 13 holds, 48⅓ innings, and an average ERA of 3.91 in 47 games.
Then, after 5 years, I hit the limit. Last year, Lee Seung-jin’s fastball speed fell to the mid-140km range, so the curveball did not work as easily as before. After 3 wins, 2 holds, 31⅓ innings, and an earned run average of 6.61 in 35 games, he decided to equip himself with a new weapon.
After careful consideration, the new weapon chosen is a forkball. Lee Seung-jin, who we met at Jamsil Baseball Stadium on the 6th, said, “I practiced forkball a lot at the finish camp. It was a pitch I threw in 2020, but I didn’t throw it because it wasn’t familiar to my hand. It kept falling out of my hand. I thought I would need a forkball this year. In 2021, I was obsessed with fastball restraints, but last year I abandoned my obsession because 150km didn’t come out. When it came out to 150km, it was okay with one curve if the fastball control was good, but now it’s in the middle of 140km, so it’s difficult with curves. “he confessed.
Doosan has many forkball masters. Pitching coach Jung Jae-hoon is a typical example. It is no exaggeration to say that most of the Doosan pitchers who throw forkballs have passed through the hands of coach Jung. Bullpen coach Park Jung-bae, who is newly joining this year, also made a reputation for his forkball during his active career. Starting from the spring camp in Australia, Lee Seung-jin is trying to learn the forkball from the two coaches in earnest.
Lee Seung-jin said, “I’ve changed my grip for throwing a forkball a lot, but now I’m familiar with the grip. I’m going to camp and ask the two coaches to refine it more. I feel good when I throw a forkball when I’m playing catch.” built
Lee Seung-jin, who started his pro career at SK in 2014, has yet to play a full-time season in the first team. He came to Doosan and played an active part in the winning group, and now he wanted to settle down, but he had to swallow regrets due to the sluggish performance last year. In the new year, he is working hard to build his body with the determination to endure one season in the first team.
New head coach Lee Seung-yeop set Lee Seung-jin’s goal of 50 games this year and an average ERA of 2 points. Lee Seung-jin aims to pitch in 60 games, including fall baseball, and tries his best to live up to coach Lee’s expectations.
Lee Seung-jin said, “Pokeball is also forkball, but I think it’s important how quickly you build your body well. I think you can join the opening entry only if you show everything you can show in Australia, including your first pitch.”
New Year’s wish is for the team to win. Doosan finished 9th last year and failed to advance to the fall baseball and Korean series for the first time in 8 years since 2014. Lee Seung-jin said, “I hope the team wins this year. I hope my contribution to winning the championship is great.”