“I’m throwing like a human now.”
Doosan Bears right-hander Kim Kang-ryul, 35, laughs when asked about his recent performance. Kim is now in his 16th year of professional baseball, having joined Doosan in 2007 after graduating from Gyeonggi University. He was known as a hard-hitting fastball prospect as a rookie, but it took him a while to become a first-team regular due to his control issues. In 2017, he pitched 89 innings in 70 games, and in 2018, he pitched 76 innings in 65 games, and in 2021, he collected 21 saves as a closer. In his thirties, he saw the light as an atrophy replacement, but it took him a while to hit the free agent market, as he tore both Achilles tendons in quick succession and had to go under the knife twice.
This year, at the age of 35, Kim was eligible to become a free agent for the first time in his life if he played a healthy season. However, he was plagued by pain in his left pelvis since spring training in Australia. He threw the ball while taking care of himself, but as a result of enduring the pain in his back, his shoulder also became abnormal. He missed 73 days of the first team roster to get healthy. Even if I played until the end of the season, there were not enough free agent sign-ups for about a month, so I had to postpone exercising my lifetime free agent rights until next season.
For a pitcher in his mid-30s, having to delay his free agency rights by a year is certainly not a good thing, but it has made Kim’s life easier. With the pressure of pre-free agency off his mind, he took better care of his body and prepared for the second half of the season, and it paid off. In the first half of the season, he had one save, four innings pitched, and a 13.50 ERA in six games; in the second half, he had one win, two saves, 15 innings pitched, and a 2.40 ERA in 16 games.
Doosan manager Lee Seung-yeop said, “Kim Kang-ryul had some problems with his hip since camp. He also had a bad shoulder, so we couldn’t start the season together. He hasn’t been feeling well, but he’s been performing well lately. He’s been throwing good pitches, and he’s been a big help in the bullpen without (Park) Chi-gook. If he doesn’t get sick, he can do a good job behind the plate.”
Doosan pitching coach Kwon Myung-cheol, who has watched and managed Kim from the sidelines since the second team, agreed. “When I moved from the second team to the first team, I gave pitching coach Kim Sang-jin a mission: ‘Let (Kim) throw about 40 pitches.’ That meant that as soon as he was in shape to throw 40 pitches in the second team, I would put him in the first team. It took him a while to find his balance because his shoulder wasn’t good, but I think he’s almost back to where he was when he was good. I hope he can help the pitching staff as the eldest brother at the end. We will continue to take care of him and let him throw the ball like he is now.” 스포츠토토
Reflecting on his eventful season, Kim confessed, “I think this year was the hardest I’ve ever played baseball.” He said, “It was hard being in the second team. I’m older now, and it was an important season, but I didn’t feel well from the beginning of camp. I tried to do something even though I didn’t feel well,