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Left-hander brimming with confidence after shutting down Cuba

All Headlines 08:41 November 05, 2015

By Yoo Jee-ho

SEOUL, Nov. 5 (Yonhap) -- South Korean left-hander Kim Kwang-hyun was brimming with confidence after shutting down the vaunted Cuban lineup for three innings on Wednesday, saying he feels ready to take the mound for the country at the start of an upcoming international tournament.

Kim needed just 38 pitches to mow down Cuba for three scoreless innings at Gocheok Sky Dome, where South Korea prevailed 6-0 in the first official game at the brand new venue.

Kim scattered three singles, aided by a double play in the process. A Cuban runner was caught stealing second after nearing getting picked off by the left-hander at first.

Kim, a long-time ace for the South Korean club SK Wyverns, has pitched in his share of big international games, and will likely be called upon to start South Korea's first game of the inaugural Premier 12 on Sunday against Japan at Sapporo Dome.

Manager Kim In-sik has yet to announce his starter, but Kim, the 2008 Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) MVP, said he'll be ready.

"I am feeling good, and since I didn't throw too many pitches here, I should be fine for Sunday's game," he said after Wednesday's game. "I am building myself up for Sunday."

Before Wednesday's game, Kim's previous appearance in a live game was the KBO Wild Card Game against the Nexen Heroes on Oct. 7. Despite the near monthlong layoff, Kim said he felt better than he'd hoped.

Against Cuba, Kim threw 15 four-seam fastballs and 17 sliders, while mixing in five curveballs and one changeup. He said he wants to expand his repertoire a little more if he faces Japan.

"Everyone knows I throw a lot of sliders," he said. "I got my strikeouts with sliders, but I also threw strikes and missed bats with curves and changeups."

Kim, 27, has been a mainstay on the national team since the 2008 Beijing Olympics, where South Korea won the gold medal with a 3-2 victory over Cuba. Kim was also on the team that finished second to Japan at the 2009 World Baseball Classic and the gold medal-winning squad at the 2014 Incheon Asian Games.

Kim said his confidence has grown over the years as his international resume got longer, and added he hopes the pitching staff can build on the combined four-hitter against Cuba.

"We didn't give up a run or allow a walk," he said of the efforts put together by five pitchers. "I hope we can keep this up without getting too cocky. We've been hearing so much about how pitching is going to be the weak link on this national team. It hurt our pride, and we all wanted to show something on the mound. I am happy we pitched such a good game."

jeeho@yna.co.kr
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