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Nexen starter Van Hekken confident he can pitch well on short rest

All Headlines 15:57 November 07, 2014

By Yoo Jee-ho

SEOUL, Nov. 7 (Yonhap) -- Andy Van Hekken, the left-handed ace for the Nexen Heroes competing in the South Korean baseball championship series, is about to do something he's never done in his three-year career in the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) -- pitch on three days' rest.

Van Hekken is scheduled to start Game 4 of the ongoing Korean Series against the Samsung Lions on Saturday. He started the opening game of the best-of-seven series Tuesday, when he got a no-decision in the Heroes' 4-2 victory.

The teams will play their third game of the best-of-seven affair Friday at Mokdong Stadium in Seoul. On the eve of his start, Van Hekken said he feels physically and mentally ready for the task.

"I feel really good. I've felt pretty good all year," said Van Hekken, who led the KBO with 20 wins in the regular season. "I don't know what I will feel like once the game starts. My body will be in kind of shock over being on short rest. But I am sure I will be ready to go."
<YNAPHOTO path='C:/YNA/YNACLI~1/Down/Article/AEN20141107007100315_01_i.jpg' id='' title='' caption='Andy Van Hekken of the Nexen Heroes throws a pitch against the Samsung Lions in Game 1 of the Korean Series in Daegu on Nov. 4, 2014. (Yonhap file photo)'/>

Regardless of the Game 3 result, Van Hekken will be under pressure to deliver the goods for a team with a thin starting rotation.

If the Heroes lose Friday, they will go down 2-1 and will face steep odds. In the past 31 Korean Series, teams have been tied at one game apiece on 11 occasions, and the club that won Game 3 in that situation has won the championship 10 times.

Should the Heroes prevail Friday, they will then have a chance to take a commanding 3-1 series lead with their ace on the mound Saturday. Only one team in the KBO's 32-year history has come back from a 3-1 series deficit to win the championship.

Henry Sosa, who struggled in a losing effort in Game 2 on Wednesday, is slated to start Game 5 for the Heroes. Sosa's inconsistency and the lack of a viable No. 3 starter puts that much more pressure on Van Hekken, but the soft-spoken 35-year-old seems undaunted by the prospect of taking the mound with the Heroes' fate hanging in the balance.

"It will be a big game, but they're all big games (in the Korean Series)," he said. "I am just going to do the same kind of things I've been doing. I try not to put too much pressure on myself and do what I can do."

Van Hekken has already proven his mettle in the postseason heat. In Game 1, he held the Lions to two runs over six innings and struck out six. The only blemish was a two-run home run by Yamaico Navarro with no out in the third, but Van Hekken retired the next 12 batters in order before handing things over to the bullpen.

Two relief pitchers, setup man Cho Sang-woo and closer Son Seung-lak, combined for three scoreless innings for the victory, and Van Hekken said he'd like to see the same formula at work Saturday.

"Hopefully, I can pitch well and do what I did the last time, and give the team a chance to win," he said. "I came out of the game when it was tied and our relievers did a great job of holding them to two runs, and we were able to get the lead and get the win."

Van Hekken said although he's never pitched on three days' rest in the KBO, he's pitched often on four days' rest and the experience should help him Saturday.

"Even if I am a little tired, I am sure adrenaline will kick in a little bit and get me through."

jeeho@yna.co.kr
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