토스카지노KIA left-handed sidearm prospect Kwak Do-kyu (19) has expressed his desire for a call-up to the first team in the second half of the season.
Kwak Do-gyu, a native of Gongju, was selected by KIA in the fifth round, 42nd overall, in this year’s rookie draft. He made his first-team debut on 13 April in relief of Hanwha and has appeared in six games (five innings) for the first team this season, posting a 9.00 ERA with no wins, no losses, no holds and no saves.
While he hasn’t impressed in the first team, he has been a revelation in the Futures (second level) league. In 22 games (25⅔ innings), he has a 5-0 record with two saves and a 0.70 ERA. With a sub-zero ERA, he has established himself as a key resource for the KIA Future Team.
For his performance, Kwak was honoured with a spot on the Futures All-Star team in his rookie year. He is set to play in the 2023 Shinhan Bank SOL KBO Futures All-Star Game at Sajik Stadium in Busan on the 14th.
“First of all, I would like to thank the coach for sending me to the All-Star Game,” Kwak smiled, “It’s a second team, but it’s a precious spot, so I’m honoured.”
Kwak said he learned a lot from his experience in the first team this season. “I think I definitely felt what I need to improve on. It gave me a chance to work harder,” he said, “I’m focusing on slowly reducing my shortcomings and utilising my strengths.”
The fans’ enthusiastic cheers also made an impression. “I think I enjoyed it more because there were a lot of fans watching me when I entered the game,” Kwak said, “Recently, there have been a lot of fans coming to the second team stadium. I’m grateful for that, so I’m going to work harder.”
His biggest goal is to be called up to the first team again. “My goal is to get back to the first team in the second half of the season and finish in the first team,” he said, adding, “I want to play more games and become a player with the skills to stay in the first team.”
“After I switched to a sidearm in high school, I felt like I found my groove, which helped me come to the pros,” said Kwak Do-gyu, who switched to a sidearm ahead of the draft. “I think my advantage is that I can catch batters with just one pitch,” he said with confidence.
Kwak Do-kyu recently changed his pitching form. “I recently lowered the angle of my arm to catch both left and right-handed batters,” he said, “I have a left-handed sidearm, so there is an image that I am only strong against left-handed batters, but I want to be a strong pitcher for everyone.”
Under the guidance of KIA Futures team manager Son Seung-rak, he improved his fastball and raised his pitch count. “I think I was able to throw comfortably because the coach gave me enough time and guided me well,” said Kwak Do-gyu, “and I think my velocity increased as I found the optimal routine.”
On a personal level, he also watches other players’ games to analyse and learn from them. “I try to watch their movements in detail,” says Kwak. Recently, I’ve been watching Josh Hader, who plays in the Major League Baseball (MLB) in San Diego,” he said, “thinking, ‘What should I do in that situation?
“My brothers call me ‘Mr Zero,’ so I’m not thinking about giving up runs, I’m thinking about how I’m going to deal with the batter,” Kwak said, adding that his strong performance in the Futures League this season has given him confidence.
The fans at the secondary stadium also helped him throw the ball harder. “The fans tell me I’m throwing well and say, ‘Cheer up, baby tiger,'” Kwak said. “I have a unique routine where I shake my head when I pitch, and they call it ‘dori-dori’. I’m always grateful for that.”