By Yoo Jee-ho
SEOUL, Feb. 9 (Yonhap) -- Unable to break out of a protracted slump last year, Kiwoom Heroes' reliever Kim Seong-min did the unthinkable: He changed his delivery in midseason.
The left-hander went from an overhead delivery to a three-quarter one, dropping his arm angle to better handle left-handed batters. Kim finished the season on a strong note, with a 2.70 ERA over his final 13 1/3 innings covering 14 appearances. Before the change, Kim sported an 11.32 ERA in 10 1/3 innings.
For 2021, the 26-year-old can't wait to test his new delivery for a full season.
"I had some solid numbers late last year, but I think it was mostly because hitters were not familiar with my new delivery and they didn't really know what to do," Kim told reporters Tuesday following his practice at Gocheok Sky Dome in Seoul. "The sample size was small. I still have to make some adjustments and come up with ways to get guys out with my new arm angle."
Kim had an excellent 2019 season, in which he posted a 2.56 ERA in 50 appearances. He didn't give up any home runs in 56 1/3 innings then.
But Kim was knocked around hard right out of the gate in 2020, serving up three homers in his first 6 2/3 innings while allowing seven earned runs.
Left-handed pitchers are usually expected to excel against same-handed batters, but that hasn't been the case for Kim since his Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) debut in 2017. Kim has allowed higher a batting average against left-handed hitters than right-handed ones every year.
When Kim was demoted to the minor league in August last year with an 11.32 ERA through 11 outings, he felt it was time for a change.
And with the new delivery comes a new pitch sequence.
"My catchers have told me I'll need more experience to learn how to handle different hitters with different pitches," Kim said. "They said they'll ultimately leave it up to me to throw whatever pitch I want to throw at certain counts."
Kim was a member of the Heroes' top bullpen unit that came on with a lead in 2019 but fell out of favor in 2020. His personal goal is to get back into the top group, though the team goal comes first.
"I've won championships at every level I've played, from elementary school to middle school and high school," Kim said. "The only thing that's missing is a professional title. And winning the championship is the primary goal this year. If I could make some meaningful contributions to that end, it'd be icing on the cake."
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