Six years after joining, promoted to the Pilseung group…Lee Sang-dong “I want to be KT’s ‘solid trio'”

Dreaming of being part of an iron-walled bullpen.

The KT Wiz is a pitching kingdom. Amidst the fierce competition, KT manager Lee Kang-cheol has one player in mind. It’s right-hander Lee Sang-dong. “I want to form a ‘solid trio’ with my teammates this year,” Lee said when we met in Okinawa, Japan, KT’s spring training camp.

It took him a long time to make his mark on the first team. After joining KT with the 31st pick in the fourth round of the 2019 second round, Lee made just 17 appearances in three seasons until 2021. He then enlisted in the military and was discharged in April last year. He was called up to the first team in early June. In 36 regular-season games and 40⅔ innings, he went 4-1 with a 3.98 ERA and one save. He also made his first career postseason start. He pitched 1 1/3 scoreless innings in two playoff games and a 2.25 ERA in four innings in Game 2 of the Korean Series.

“I think (Lee) Sang-dong is a must-win group. He’s definitely improved from last season’s experience. “He has a forked ball and knows how to strike out. If he continues to do well like this, I think he will be around for the next 10 years.”

Upon hearing the news, Lee Sang-dong said, “It’s very motivating to hear the coach say that. I want to repay his faith by all means,” he smiled shyly. “I had a different experience in the postseason last year. The fans were so loud, it was so different from the regular season. “I wasn’t satisfied with the result (runner-up in the Korean Series), but it meant a lot to me to throw my ball. I feel like I’m relatively relaxed after playing on the big stage.”

This year’s spring training sweated harder than ever. “I wanted to do better than last year, so I prepared hard. I think I’m doing well,” he said, adding, “I’m trying to throw good, consistent pitches. I also tried to refine my forkball, which is my strength,” he explained. He added, “Pitching coach Je Chun-mo is always watching from the side. She always says, ‘Twist more,’ and I say, ‘Okay,'” he laughed.

My coach told me, “You need to have a good twist in your torso so that you can direct the pitch and throw the ball with your lower body. “You need to keep your upper body still and use your lower body to pitch,” he explained, “to minimize the ‘upper body rotation lag,’ or the movement of your upper body. That’s what the order is.”

The team checked his condition through several bullpen pitches. “For my fastball, I tried to look at the center and throw it hard rather than focusing too much on corner work (targeting the left and right sides of the strike zone). “In practice, I try to use the forkball in favorable counts to see the batter’s reaction. We’ll see if they swing or not.”

I’ve just stepped up to the plate. He has never completed a season as a full-time pairs player before, so he is both nervous and excited. “When I joined the team last year after my military service, I felt that I had improved my body and restraint. This season, I’m confident because I’ve prepared better,” he said. “Of course, I have some concerns. But I’m going to eat well, rest well, and give it a shot. I’m in good shape,” he said encouragingly.

The middle of the pitching staff includes Woo Gyu-min and Moon Yong-ik. Woo was acquired in the second round of the draft after the end of last 사설토토 season, and Moon Yong-ik joined KT as compensation for pitcher Kim Jae-yoon, who left for Samsung Lions in free agency. “Senior Woo is always good, and Moon Yong-ik has a very good ball,” said Lee. Even if the manager said that he would consider me for the must-win group, I’m not going to let my guard down,” he said, adding, “I want to compete from the beginning again, win, and get into the must-win group.”

His ambitions are also high. “Last year, our teammate Younghyun (Park) won the hold king (32 holds). I want to do it this season, it’s my hope and dream,” he said, adding, “If I can achieve it, it will give me more confidence. First of all, I have to play well. I will always play baseball humbly and without pride,” he said.

“I want to be a player who gives people the confidence to say, ‘When this player comes to the mound, he’s good for one inning.’ (Park) Young-hyun, the new closer, is nicknamed ‘Park Dendon,’ but I want it to be ‘Lee Dendon,’ ‘Son Dendon,’ and ‘Park Dendon,’ with (Son) Dong-hyun and me. I want to be called the ‘reliable three,'” he smiled, adding, “Young-hyun and Dong-hyun are so good, so I just need to be good.”

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