Ham Duk-ju is recreating the form he had in his Doosan days, when he steadfastly guarded the back door and led the team to the championship. For two years after his trade, he was plagued by injuries and sluggishness, but he made a complete comeback with a strong performance in the opening series. Ham Deok-ju (28), a specialised middle reliever who always pitches well regardless of the situation, is saving LG.
This time, he also stopped the opponent’s pursuit in a difficult moment. Ham took the mound after starter Plutko with runners on first and second in the sixth inning against KIA in Gwangju on 26 April. He became the second pitcher in the game’s most crucial situation, striking out Ryu Ji-hyuk with a low fastball.
In the bottom of the seventh, Ham gave up a single to Socrates but retired Choi Hyung-woo and Kim Sun-bin at first base to preserve the lead. LG went on to win 5-3, and Ham Deok-ju picked up his seventh shutout of the season. With a 1.52 ERA and three saves, he and Park Myung-geun have been the go-to guys in tough situations.안전놀이터
Here’s what he had to say to the media after the game on the 26th.
-When I was in camp, I just wanted to stay in the first team for a long time. He’s not just staying long, he’s pitching in really important situations.
“When I was in camp, I didn’t think I’d be in the first team full-time like this. I just wanted to stay in the first team for a long time, but since the opening series, I’ve been throwing with the mindset of repaying the manager for his faith in me and letting me out in good situations. I think I’m playing better baseball because of it.”
-Suwon You got off to a great start in the second game of the opening series, and I’m wondering if that’s why you’ve been playing so well.
I think that game gave me confidence, and I think the manager had faith in me after seeing my performance. I also got a lot of confidence from that match. It was the game that made me think that I’m still good, and that’s the game I still remember the most.
(Ham Deok-ju pitched two scoreless innings in the ninth inning against Suwon KT on 2 April. He pitched well in the second game of the opening two-game series, and LG earned its first win of the season with a 10-9 victory over KT in extra innings. Ham Deok-ju also picked up the win).
-You’ve been seen pitching in difficult situations with runners on base, like today’s game, or in a save situation in the ninth inning, how does it feel to pitch in such a crucial moment after a long time?
When you have runners on base, you try to throw as hard as you can because you don’t want them to get home. My manager and pitching coach tell me that I can go out anytime after the sixth inning, so I try to prepare a little earlier. I don’t want to finish the game, I just want to continue contributing to the team.
-Both your fastball and your off-speed pitches seem to be at their best. What do you think of yourself?
I don’t know about my fastball, but I think it’s better now than when I was at my best. In the past, in difficult situations, I would just look at the middle and try to throw hard. Now that it’s a first-pitch pitch, I don’t find myself in difficult or ambiguous situations. It’s a little bit easier for hitters.
-At this rate, he could be a dark horse in free agency next winter. We know that pitchers like you are rare in the market. How do you feel about that?
Honestly, I feel good. I see articles about free agency, and every time I see it, I feel good. It’s still early, but I’m a little bit hopeful.
-After being traded, he wasn’t well-received, but at this rate, he could be a call-up. What do you think?
At first, I honestly said I didn’t care, but it bothered me. It’s not like I was just bad, but I was injured for two years and didn’t play well. I felt very sorry for myself, but the club always looked after me, adjusted and helped me. This year, I feel like I’m paying them back a little bit. I hope to repay the debt by winning the championship.
-Lee, I remember the day I put on the LG jersey after the trade in March 2021, I was determined to win.
I remember it too. And now I want to win even more than I did then. I’ve won championships before and I know what it feels like, so I really want to win, and I think about how much better it would be to win here at LG and how much the fans would love it. I draw pictures of myself winning in my head, and every time I do, I want to win more and more.
-Are you confident of winning?
I think we have the best chance. The hitters are playing really well and the pitchers are playing really well. The team atmosphere is really good. It would be weird if we didn’t win. I think we can win it.