SPORTS

All-Star catcher looking to help young pitchers develop at new club

By Yonhap
  • Published : Nov 30, 2017 - 15:24
  • Updated : Nov 30, 2017 - 15:24

DAEGU  -- South Korean All-Star catcher Kang Min-ho said Thursday he'll look to help with the development of young pitchers at his new club.

Kang was formally introduced as the new catcher for the Samsung Lions of the Korea Baseball Organization. The Lions announced their signing of the big free agent prize to a four-year deal worth 8 billion won ($7.4 million) on Nov. 21, and held Kang's introductory press conference at their home stadium, Daegu Samsung Lions Park in Daegu, 300 kilometers southeast of Seoul on Thursday.

Kang, 32, had spent his entire 14-year career with the Lotte Giants before moving to the Lions. He said that it was tough to leave the only professional club he'd known but he's looking forward to new challenges in new surroundings.

"Samsung has a lot of talented young players," Kang said. "I know that the team wants me to help young pitchers develop. I want to teach the young guys how to respond to different situations that pop up over the course of a game."

Kang Min-ho of the Samsung Lions poses in his new uniform at Daegu Samsung Lions Park in Daegu following his introductory press conference on Nov. 30, 2017. Kang signed a four-year deal worth 8 billion won ($7.4 million) as a free agent on Nov. 21, 2017. (Yonhap)

In particular, Kang said he'd like to help former US minor league right-hander Jang Pil-joon become the KBO leader in saves. Jang recorded 21 saves in 2017 to rank fifth in the league.

Kang has been better known for his bat than his glove behind the plate. In 2017, he batted .285 with 22 home runs, 22 doubles and 68 RBIs to lead all catchers in those categories. It was his third straight 20-homer season. Kang has reached double figures in long balls in each of the past eight years.

He's a career .277 hitter with 218 home runs and 778 RBIs in 1,495 games.

And Kang will need to keep up his production, since he's joining a club that has fallen on hard times of late.

After winning four consecutive championships from 2011 to 2014, the Lions finished as runner-up in 2015 and then fell to ninth place among 10 clubs in both 2016 and 2017. This past season, they ranked near the bottom in major offensive categories.

If nothing else, Kang said he feels great physically.

"I had some knee problems last year, but I worked hard this year and played in a lot of games," said Kang, who set a career-high with 130 games played. "I want to stay healthy and put up good numbers, so that I can prove Samsung made the right choice to sign me."

Kang said switching teams never really hit him until he put on the new uniform during Thursday's press conference.

"I am sad to have left Lotte," Kang said, "but I'll try to start fresh with the new team here." (Yonhap)