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Veteran pitcher hoping to recapture old glory for hometown club

All Headlines 17:12 October 25, 2017

GWANGJU, Oct. 25 (Yonhap) -- Kia Tigers' right-hander Lim Chang-yong has been around in the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) for so long that he actually pitched against his current manager, Kim Ki-tai, in the mid-1990s.

Now at the same club as manager and relief pitcher, both are trying to recapture some old glory for the franchise with the most KBO championships ever at 10.

The Tigers won the Korean Series in 2009. Before that, their previous title came in 1997, and Lim, now 41, is the only remaining Tiger from that 1997 championship team. They're back in the Korean Series this year and will face the two-time defending champions Doosan Bears starting Wednesday.

Lim marveled at how quickly 20 years have passed since his last Korean Series title in a Tigers uniform.

"I am just happy to be playing baseball at this age," Lim said before Game 1 at Gwangju-Kia Champions Field in Gwangju, 330 kilometers south of Seoul. "I guess I've been given this opportunity because I've been around a long time. I don't know when I'll get another chance like this. So I'll try to make the most of it."

Lim has come a long way to return to his hometown team. After spending his first four KBO seasons with the Tigers, Lim was traded to another KBO club, the Samsung Lions, and played there from 1999 to 2007, splitting his time between being a starter and a closer. Then he pitched five years in Japan's Nippon Professional Baseball, and had a cup of coffee with the Chicago Cubs in 2013 before rejoining the Lions for the 2014 season.

Lim came home again in 2016, when he recorded 15 saves with a 4.37 ERA.

He had an even more of an up-and-down season in 2017. He opened the year as the Tigers' closer but moved to middle relief and finished with an 8-6 record, seven saves and a 3.78 ERA.

He also had issues against the Bears, posting a 15.00 ERA in five appearances with one loss and one save. As a team, the Tigers' bullpen ranked eighth among 10 teams with a 5.71 ERA, while their starters were second overall with a 4.31 ERA.

In this file photo taken Oct. 2, 2017, Lim Chang-yong of the Kia Tigers delivers a pitch against the KT Wiz in the bottom of the seventh inning in the clubs' Korea Baseball Organization regular season game at KT Wiz Park in Suwon, Gyeonggi Province. (Yonhap)

Lim said the postseason will be different and that he and all other pitchers feel refreshed after an extended break.

By finishing first in the regular season, the Tigers advanced directly to the Korean Series and haven't played since the regular season finale Oct. 3.

"I think all the guys in the bullpen are rested and ready to go," Lim said. "Hopefully, we won't be giving up so many runs like we did during the regular season."

At 41 years and a little over four months, Lim, if he makes an appearance in this series, will become the oldest pitcher to appear in a Korean Series game. A former Tiger pitcher Kim Jung-soo holds the record at 41 years, three months and one day when he was with the SK Wyverns in 2003.

Lim said the age-related record is "embarrassing."

"I don't consider myself special because I am older than the other guys," he said. "I am still just a member of this team, and I'll do the best I can on the mound if I get a chance."

Lim also won the 1996 Korean Series with the Tigers and added three more championship rings with the Lions in 2002, 2006 and 2014. The relatively inexperienced Tigers clubhouse can certainly use whatever wisdom Lim can impart.

"I was surprised to see so many guys are playing in their first Korean Series," Lim said. "I told them to just take these games like regular season contests and to stick to their usual routines and game plans. And I also said we should play with the pride of being the best team from the regular season."

The Bears are coming into this series on a roll. In the previous postseason series, the Bears torched the NC Dinos for 50 runs and 12 home runs to eliminate them in four games.

Lim said he felt the Bears are now due for a letdown.

"Hitting comes in cycles, and since they've scored in double figures in so many games, I think they'll cool off now," he said. "It'd be great to win the championship for our fans here in Gwangju. And clinching the title right here would be even sweeter."

jeeho@yna.co.kr
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