For the first time in his illustrious career as a reliever, Samsung Lions right-hander Oh Seung-hwan will start a game this week, his manager said Tuesday, as desperate times called for desperate measures.
To help the struggling 40-year-old return to form, Lions manager Park Jin-man has decided to give Oh the ball to start Wednesday's game against the Kiwoom Heroes at Daegu Samsung Lions Park in Daegu, some 235 kilometers southeast of Seoul.
"Oh Seung-hwan has been talking to pitching coach Jong Hyun-wook extensively in recent days, and Jong recommended Oh start a game at some point," Park said. "We made the decision on Sunday. He will throw 50 to 60 pitches to get his feel back."
Oh is the all-time leader in Korea Baseball Organization history with 374 saves. He also pitched as a reliever for the Hanshin Tigers in Japan's Nippon Professional Baseball, and for the St. Louis Cardinals, the Toronto Blue Jays and the Colorado Rockies in Major League Baseball, notching 122 saves overseas.
In those three leagues combined, Oh has pitched in 979 games, all of them in relief.
Oh, the oldest pitcher in the KBO this year, has pitched to a 4.50 ERA in 10 innings so far this year. He allowed an earned run in four consecutive outings last month, prompting Park to remove Oh from the closer role.
Oh has recorded two holds since the demotion, though he still hasn't been as effective and dominant as in seasons past. His fastball velocity is down from 144.7 kph last year to 142.6 kph this year.
Jong, a former reliever himself, said Oh will get to pitch in less stressful situations in a start, as opposed to the late-inning, high-leverage situations in which he has pitched for most of his career.
"When I was reliever, I made occasional starts, too," said Jong, who made 518 appearances in his career, 38 of them starts. "Throwing a lot of pitches will help you get your feel back."
Oh's season high for a pitch count is 27 from April 14. (Yonhap)