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(Yonhap Interview) KBO pitcher Shane Youman looks forward to fresh start on new club

All Headlines 10:04 February 17, 2015

By Yoo Jee-ho

SEOUL, Feb. 17 (Yonhap) -- By his account, Shane Youman, an American pitcher entering his fourth season in the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO), had a tough stretch in the 2014 season that he'd like to forget.

Pitching for the Lotte Giants, Youman was 5-0 with a 2.89 ERA in his first five starts. Then the wheels fell off, and the left-hander ended the season with a 12-10 record and a 5.93 ERA, with 84 strikeouts in 151 2/3 innings, by far his worst numbers in South Korea.

The Giants opted not to retain the 35-year-old pitcher, who was 38-21 with a 3.89 ERA in 88 appearances over three seasons.

Then the Hanwha Eagles came calling, hoping Youman can help turn around a franchise that has finished last in four of the past five seasons.

Reached by e-mail during the Eagles' spring training in Japan, Youman said he's ready to put the 2014 season behind him and get a fresh start with the new club.

"After signing with Hanwha, I did physical therapy for five weeks to build the strength in my legs needed to relieve the pain in my knee," Youman said of his surgically repaired right knee, noting that the procedure before the 2014 season affected his performance.

"I also started getting my arm in shape a bit earlier than in the past couple years," Youman added. "So far, things have been working out well. I just need to continue to build and maintain the strength and endurance I need to make it through a long season."

Looking back on his 2014 season, Youman admitted he "lost some focus" after injuring his left ankle in May and didn't stay on top of his routine in between starts.

"I didn't always feel good on my start days, which was a direct reflection of my work ethic," he added. "I knew it may be an up and down season after having knee surgery, but I felt if I would've done a bit more throughout the season to prepare, things may have been a bit different."

He said his experience with the Eagles so far has been "a bit trying" because "things are run and done quite differently than what I've been accustomed to my whole career."

On the other hand, Youman said he's enjoying his new teammates and pointed to team chemistry as an important element to the Eagles' season.

"I really believe the key to our success will be us getting to know one another as best we can, on and off the field, and form a bond that no one can break," he said. "Aside from all the practicing we do, the main thing we need is chemistry. If we can build some strong team chemistry, I really believe it'll be a fun and exciting season in Hanbat Stadium (the Eagles' home in Daejeon)."

The Eagles had an unusual offseason development earlier this month, when manager Kim Sung-keun, an old-fashioned disciplinarian, sent former major league outfielder Nyjer Morgan to South Korea from the team's Japanese camp, on the grounds that he wasn't ready to keep up with the rest.

Kim said Morgan complained of some shoulder pains but explained that the injury wasn't so serious and he felt Morgan simply wasn't ready to train.

The manager, who took over the Eagles last fall with his tough-love approach fully intact at age 72, also called on Morgan to change his mindset and he would train with the Eagles' minor league club until he was ready.

Youman said he and Morgan go back a decade. They were also teammates on the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2007. Youman called Morgan "a gamer" who knows what it takes to get ready for a season.

"He is a high energy guy that likes to have fun, but he's a gamer, and when it's time to lace up the spikes and take the field, he'll be ready to do whatever it takes to help us win," the pitcher said. "At the end of the day, it's all about what a player does when it's time to play."

Of the three foreign players for the Eagles -- pitcher Mitch Talbot is the other -- Youman has the most KBO experience. Talbot pitched for the Samsung Lions in 2012 and is back for his second KBO stint, while Morgan is entering his first season here.

As a leader for both the foreign contingent and the pitching staff, Youman said he will try to set good examples.

"Hopefully some of my mental toughness and aggressive nature can rub off on some of the younger pitchers," he said. "Perhaps I can also help these guys have a bit of fun which can lessen the stress some of these boys tend to have from game to game."

jeeho@yna.co.kr
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