Kiwoom Heroes’ Ahn Woo-jin, 24, fulfilled his role as an ace despite his less-than-perfect physical condition.
Ahn started the game against the Lotte Giants in the 2023 Shinhan Bank SOL KBO League at Gocheok Sky Dome in Seoul on April 19 and pitched six innings of four-hit ball, striking out three and walking two.
Ahn, who was briefly scratched from the first-team roster to rest after his 5⅔ innings of one-run, four-hit ball with four walks and six strikeouts against Lotte on Aug. 8, returned to the first-team mound today. He threw 97 pitches and used a fastball (49), slider (24), curve (14), and changeup (10). His fastball topped out at 156 miles per hour, but he often saw his fastball dip in velocity. His lowest fastball was 145 mph.
“I didn’t pitch out of the bullpen because I thought I needed to rest, and I thought that playing catch would be enough, but when I got on the mound, I felt different because it was an actual game. I think skipping one pitch had an impact. The feeling of the game came back after one or two pitches,” he said.
When asked about his lack of control over his fastball, Ahn said, “I tried to look at the corner of the strike zone when I thought the batter wasn’t going to hit it or when I threw the first pitch. When I throw the ball with force, it feels like it floats, so today I focused on throwing it accurately, thinking about balance rather than force. I didn’t get many strikeouts and my pitches were definitely not good, but I think I got good results by throwing accurately and using my changeup a lot.”
Ahn joined Kiwoom as the first pick in the 2018 rookie draft and has never missed the postseason since joining the organization. After finishing seventh in 2017, Kiwoom qualified for the postseason for five consecutive years until last year. Ahn has also pitched in a postseason game every year.
This season, however, Kiwoom is at the bottom of the league (46 wins, 3 draws, and 64 losses). They are 8.5 games behind fifth-place Doosan (50 wins, 1 draw, 51 losses). While the postseason isn’t completely out of the question, it’s certainly not a realistic prospect.
“I’ve never been in such a precarious position in fall baseball since I joined the team,” Ahn lamented. “I’ve been in the middle and top of the standings, and I’m upset that I’ve fallen so far. I’ve been preparing hard, but it’s not working out, so I feel like I’m sagging. Still, I think I need to keep playing winning matches for now.”메이저놀이터
With an 8-7 record and a 2.40 ERA in 22 games (138⅔ innings) this season, Ahn needs just two more wins to reach 10 wins for the second straight year. “Of course it feels good to win,” Ahn smiled, “but when the team wins, I feel happy and less tired. No matter how good I pitch, if I don’t win, I don’t feel like I’ve gained anything. It’s the same with my wins, and when the team loses, I feel a little more pressure. I think I have less than 10 starts left, but I really want to win 10 games. I hope to smile every game because there are only a few games left,” she said, igniting her will for the rest of the season.