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MVP-winning pitcher hoping to survive dog days

All Headlines 11:55 April 30, 2018

SEOUL, April 30 (Yonhap) -- He has just thrown back-to-back complete games, but Kia Tigers' left-hander Yang Hyeon-jong believes this is no time to gloat about his performance.

The 30-year-old, who won both the regular season and the Korean Series MVP awards in the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) last year, is simply hoping he can sustain his level of play and survive through the dog days of summer.

Yang is 3-2 with a 2.84 ERA over 44 1/3 innings, having struck out 41 and walked seven. He threw a complete game in a victory over the LG Twins on April 19 and went nine innings again in a loss to the Hanwha Eagles a week later.

Yang had one complete game all of last season, when he was 20-6 and had a 3.44 ERA.

Prior to this season, Yang said he wanted to improve his strikeout-to-walk (K/BB) ratio and cut down on his walks and hits per innings pitched (WHIP). Yang has done just that after six starts. His WHIP is down from 1.31 to 1.08, and his K/BB is 5.86, compared to 3.51 last year.

But Yang said the season is still too young to feel content with his numbers so far.

In this file photo from April 19, 2018, Yang Hyeon-jong of the Kia Tigers throws a pitch against the LG Twins in the top of the first inning of a Korea Baseball Organization regular season game at Gwangju-Kia Champions Field in Gwangju, 330 kilometers south of Seoul. (Yonhap)

"I've been doing okay, but once the weather gets hot, I will hit a wall at some point," he said. "It's just a matter of managing those rough patches. I have to make it through summer."

Yang had a shorter offseason in 2017 than at any point in his career. The Tigers' championship season ended in late October, and Yang had a slew of awards ceremonies and functions to attend for most of the winter.

It ate into his winter training time, and Yang said he made sure to put in extra work during spring training to get himself ready for another long run.

Yang is used to the ups and downs that define a typical baseball season. He won his first seven decisions last year, but then went 0-3 with an 8.28 ERA over a five-game span from May 14 to June 9.

Looking back on that tough stretch, Yang said it was a great learning experience.

"I think having gone through what I did last year should help me this season," he said. "And I also felt it's always better to talk to different people than to just keep things to myself."

jeeho@yna.co.kr
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