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Pitcher takes 'simple' approach to turn season around

All Headlines 08:52 October 26, 2017

GWANGJU, Oct. 26 (Yonhap) -- Pat Dean, the first-year American left-hander for the Kia Tigers in the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO), would be the first to tell you he'd lost some confidence earlier in the year.

But then he tried to simplify his approach on the mound. It led to much better results in the second half.

And the Tigers are hoping Dean will be able to sustain that form when he starts Game 3 of the Korean Series -- the KBO's championship final -- against the Doosan Bears on Saturday in Seoul.

The Tigers dropped Wednesday's opener 5-3. And depending on the result of Game 2 later Thursday, the Tigers will either face a virtual must-win situation in Game 3 -- no team has ever rallied from a 3-0 deficit in the best-of-seven Korean Series -- or have a chance to take a 2-1 series lead in the third game.

In sum, a lot will be riding on Dean's shoulders.

Dean was sitting at 5-5 with a 4.88 ERA in 17 starts entering the All-Star break in July. He came back to go 4-2 in 13 second-half starts with a 3.18 ERA. He'd been touched for 15 homers in his first 99 2/3 innings but allowed seven homers over his next 76 1/3 innings. He also improved his strikeout rates.

In this file photo taken Sept. 29, 2017, Pat Dean of the Kia Tigers throws a pitch against the Hanwha Eagles in their Korea Baseball Organization regular season game at Hanwha Life Eagles Park in Daejeon. (Yonhap)

He was particularly strong down the stretch. He posted a 2.38 ERA in his final five regular season starts and pitched into the seventh inning in four of those games while holding opponents to three or fewer earned runs in all five.

"I lost a little bit of confidence toward the end of the first half. Then I hit the reset button and stopped putting pressure on myself and just worried about getting one out at a time," Dean said before Game 1 of the Korean Series on Wednesday at Gwangju-Kia Champions Field in Gwangju, 330 kilometers south of Seoul. "I tried to keep it as simple as possible: just throw the ball to the glove instead of worrying about the hit I just gave up. Once I simplified it, I think that definitely helped a lot."

Dean signed with the Tigers over the offseason, after making 19 appearances for the Minnesota Twins in 2016. He's had to make adjustments to the new league and new surroundings, and Dean faced another challenge after the regular season ended.

By virtue of finishing first in the regular season, the Tigers advanced directly to the Korean Series. They went a full three weeks between the end of the regular season on Oct. 3 and Game 1 of the Korean Series on Wednesday.

"It was a very long three weeks. Every day kind of dragged on. It felt like spring training all over again," Dean said. "Usually, whenever the season ends, you go right into the postseason. But I got a chance to relax and give my body a break. Right now, my body feels great. I am excited for my opportunity to go out there and pitch."

Dean said he followed a bit of the Bears' postseason progress -- they knocked off the NC Dinos in four games -- but also tried to distract himself instead of thinking about baseball constantly. He watched some American football, for instance, to fill his time.

As for the Bears' high-octane offense, which produced 50 runs against the Dinos, Dean said the series will come down to execution of pitches.

"They've been like that all year. They know how to put the ball in play," said Dean, who was 1-1 with a 4.67 ERA in three regular season starts against the Bears. "You just have to go out there and execute your pitches. If we can do that, I think we have a good shot. It's definitely a good ball club that's going to be able to take advantage of our mistakes. We'll have to try to limit our mistakes and try to make them hit our pitches."

In this file photo taken Oct. 10, 2017, Pat Dean of the Kia Tigers tosses a ball during practice at Gwangju-Kia Champions Field in Gwangju. (Yonhap)

jeeho@yna.co.kr
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