After horrendous 2016, right-hander enjoying renaissance

By a2017001
  • Published : May 11, 2017 - 10:57
  • Updated : May 11, 2017 - 10:57

After 10 appearances this season, Lotte Giants right-hander Song Seung-jun already has more wins than he did all of last year in the Korea Baseball Organization.

But that isn't saying much because he picked up just one victory in 2016.

The 36-year-old improved to 3-0 on Wednesday by holding the Hanwha Eagles to a run on five hits across 5 2/3 innings, as the Giants prevailed 8-1.

The victory stopped the Giants' losing skid at three. Song, a former US minor leaguer who reached Triple-A, has won each of his three starts after starting the season in the bullpen. He's now sporting a 3.16 ERA.

Song Seung-jun of the Lotte Giants delivers a pitch against the Hanwha Eagles in their Korea Baseball Organization game at Sajik Stadium in Busan on April 25, 2017. (Yonhap)

Song, who arrived in the KBO before the 2007 season, had been a workhorse for the Giants for nearly a decade. After 2015, Song re-signed with the Giants, getting a four-year deal worth 4 billion won ($3.5 million) -- excessive for someone his age, in the eyes of skeptics.

And Song did little to silence those critics. Hampered by injuries and general ineffectiveness, Song was just 1-2 with an 8.71 ERA in only 10 appearances. He had pitched over 100 innings in each of his past nine seasons in the league.

The fall from grace was as spectacular as it was bizarre, and also stressful for Song, who once admitted he was at times afraid of being seen in the public outside the stadium.

The veteran regrouped and had a decent spring training, posting a 2.45 ERA in three relief appearances.

And the bullpen is where Song began his season, as there were still question marks on his command. But with the young starter Kim Won-jung struggling out of the gate, the Giants gave Song a shot after seven games in relief.

Song responded by winning his first start of the season on April 25 against the Eagles, after limiting them to a run over 5 2/3 innings.

He threw a gem his next time out, tossing eight shutout innings against the KT Wiz while giving up just two hits and striking out 11. Song then beat the Eagles for the second time this season Wednesday.

He touched 146 kph with his fastball in his most recent outing, and he's been throwing his forkball -- long his bread and butter -- more effectively.

Before the season, Song said his goal was not to hurt his team too much. But forced into a spot-starting role, Song has been a bigger savior than anyone in the organization could have imagined.

Through Wednesday's action, the Giants are in fifth place at 16-17, 7.5 games back of the KBO-leading Kia Tigers. The Giants, not exactly known for pitching in recent seasons, have the second-lowest team ERA this season at 3.78. (Yonhap)