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Young right-hander not rushing shoulder rehab

All Headlines 09:03 March 14, 2018

GWANGJU, March 14 (Yonhap) -- Right-hander Im Gi-yeong enjoyed a breakout season in 2017 for the Kia Tigers, helping them win the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) championship as their No. 4 starting pitcher.

His hopes of picking things up right where he left off to begin 2018 have been derailed, however, as he came down with some shoulder pains during spring training last month. Im has yet to pitch in a live game this spring, with the start of the regular season 10 days away, but the 24-year-old said he is in no hurry.

In this file photo, taken on Nov. 17, 2017, South Korean right-hander Im Gi-yeong throws a pitch against Chinese Taipei during the Asia Professional Baseball Championship at Tokyo Dome in Tokyo. (Yonhap)

"I feel pretty good now, but if I start feeling pains again, I have to do my rehab all over again," Im said Tuesday before the Tigers' first preseason game at Gwangju-Kia Champions Field in Gwangju, some 300 kilometers south of Seoul. "Once I return to the mound, the most important thing is I won't go back on the shelf."

Im went 8-6 in 23 appearances last year with a 3.65 ERA. He also tossed two complete game shutouts, both of them coming in the first half, and carried a sparkling 1.72 ERA and a 7-2 record into the All-Star break.

Im had a light throwing session Tuesday. He was scheduled to make about 30 pitches, but he felt so great that he ended up throwing 45 pitches.

"I felt like I could take the mound and pitch in a game right away," he said. "But the season hasn't even started. I will take the long view."

He threw 118 1/3 innings last year, after combining for just 57 1/3 innings in the first three seasons of his career.

And on top of those regular season innings, Im was on the mound for 5 2/3 innings in Game 4 of the Korean Series, and threw seven more innings for the South Korean national team at the Asia Professional Baseball Championship in Tokyo.

Perhaps the sudden increase in the workload has led to shoulder pains this spring, though Im said he didn't think there was any connection.

"I missed some time last year with pneumonia, and when I returned, my mechanics were a bit off," he said. "And I pushed myself too hard when I tried to correct them. I've studied videos from last year when I was pitching well, and I think I've returned to pitching the same way."

In this file photo, taken on Oct. 29, 2017, Im Gi-yeong of the Kia Tigers throws a pitch against the Doosan Bears in the bottom of the sixth inning in Game 4 of the Korean Series at Jamsil Stadium in Seoul. (Yonhap)

jeeho@yna.co.kr
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