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American ace hoping to stay on mound longer in 3rd KBO season

Sports 08:00 February 21, 2021

By Yoo Jee-ho

SEOUL, Feb. 21 (Yonhap) -- In winning South Korean baseball's ERA title last year, Kiwoom Heroes' ace Eric Jokisch threw just enough innings to qualify for that honor.

As he battled shoulder problems, the American left-hander threw just 159 2/3 innings across 27 starts. The minimum number of innings to qualify for an ERA crown is 144 -- or equal to the number of games each season.

Jokisch posted a 2.14 ERA in those innings, so he made his time on the mound count. For 2021, though, Jokisch is hoping he'll be eating up more innings.

Eric Jokisch of the Kiwoom Heroes plays catch at Gocheok Sky Dome in Seoul on Feb. 16, 2021, in this photo provided by the Heroes. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

"I feel like I let the team down a little bit, only throwing (about) 160 innings," Jokisch told reporters Thursday after practice at Gocheok Sky Dome in Seoul. "I'd like to throw closer to 200 innings. My goal is to pitch as well as I can every outing."

Jokisch is entering his third season in the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO). He's been one of the league's best starters over his first two, and his 2.67 ERA over that span is the lowest in the KBO.

Eric Jokisch of the Kiwoom Heroes plays catch at Gocheok Sky Dome in Seoul on Feb. 16, 2021, in this photo provided by the Heroes. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

With his credentials, Jokisch has already been anointed the Heroes' No.1 starter and will toe the rubber come Opening Day on April 3.

"It's an honor to be the starter of the first game," he said. "But I approach every game exactly the same. Hopefully, I'll be ready to go and hit the ground running. I am just trying to be healthy the whole year, and continue to pitch the way I have and hopefully throw a few more innings."

Eric Jokisch of the Kiwoom Heroes plays catch at Gocheok Sky Dome in Seoul on Feb. 16, 2021, in this photo provided by the Heroes. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

Jokisch made some adjustments from 2019 to 2020, increasing his curveball usage from 15.4 percent to 21.9 percent, according to the baseball statistics site Statiz. He threw his sinker 41.2 percent of the time in 2020, compared to 35 percent usage rate in 2019. Meanwhile, his four-seam fastball usage rate fell from 11.5 percent to 3.7 percent. Very few pitches Jokisch threw were straight.

Asked if he will have further tweaks to his arsenal, Jokisch smiled and said, "I don't want to give my secrets away."

"My approach is going to be similar. I try to attack hitters based on their weaknesses," he went on. "I know how to pitch these guys now."

Eric Jokisch of the Kiwoom Heroes warms up before practice at Gocheok Sky Dome in Seoul on Feb. 16, 2021, in this photo provided by the Heroes. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

jeeho@yna.co.kr
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