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Veteran closer Lim responds to manager's faith with perfect inning

All Headlines 09:57 July 23, 2014

BUSAN, July 23 (Yonhap) -- Back from an unflattering stint in the minors, veteran closer Lim Chang-yong of the Samsung Lions responded to his manager's continued show of faith with a perfect outing Tuesday night.

With his Lions leading the Lotte Giants on the road 5-3 here in Busan in their Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) showdown, Lim took the mound in the bottom of the ninth, and retired the side on just 11 pitches. He struck out two batters for his 18th save of the season, putting him in second place in the KBO in the category.

His ERA, though, still is at an unsightly 5.20, a testament to the up-and-down season he's had after returning from a short stay with the Chicago Cubs in 2013.

On July 11, a day after Lim blew his KBO-leading sixth save of the season, Lions' manager Ryu Joong-il demoted the 38-year-old veteran to the team's minor league affiliate.

The previous day, Lim came up to close out the game in the top of the ninth with the Lions leading the Giants 2-0. He allowed four earned runs on four hits, including a two-run home run by Jeon Jun-woo, while retiring just one batter, and the Lions ended up losing 5-2. Lim took the loss, and this was the third time in four July outings in which he had given up an earned run.

Demoting Lim was a gutsy, if logical, move by Ryu, whose team was still in first place by five games after Lim's latest adventures on the mound.

At the time, Ryu said he simply wanted to give Lim a breather. In the KBO, a player sent down to the minors must spend at least 10 days there before returning to the big club. The All-Star break was on the horizon, and Lim wound up missing only five of the Lions' games while he was in the minors.

Ryu at the time insisted that Lim would remain his closer in the second half of the season, rejecting speculation that the pitcher's demotion would allow a new closer to step in.

Before Tuesday's game, Ryu reiterated his stance on Lim, saying Lim would be his closer unless he suffered even more meltdowns.

In his first game back from the minors, Lim was his vintage self, hitting 150 kilometers per hour (93 miles per hour) with his fastball and even mixing in a slow curve clocked at just 121 kilometers per hour.

Lim shrugged off his flawless appearance, saying he hadn't changed much.

"I can't get too excited over just one game," he said. "I didn't really do anything special and I went after hitters the same way I had done all season long. I just think the rest I had (in the minors) helped."

Lim joined the Lions for the 2014 season after having mixed results in his lone year in the United States. He'd pitched for the Yakult Swallows in Japan from 2008 to 2012 and earned 128 saves, the most among any South Korean in Japan, before signing with the Cubs. He started his U.S. career in the minors and got called up to the big leagues in September. Lim made only six appearances for the Cubs, though, and posted a 5.40 ERA in five innings pitched.

Lim, who had previously pitched for the Lions from 1999 to 2007, came back to the KBO with high expectations, and admitted he'd failed to live up to them so far.

"I've felt bad for my teammates that I haven't put up good numbers so far," he said. "I guess I am due to get better from here and on."

jeeho@yna.co.kr
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