Hanwha right-handed pitcher Lee Min-woo, 30, breathed new life into the team’s bullpen at the end of the season. He was on the second team for more than five months, but he didn’t give up and waited patiently for his chance.
Lee was called up to the first team on July 7 against KT in Daejeon. He made his first first-team roster appearance of the season after main bullpen Kang Jae-min was sidelined with elbow pain. It was a long-awaited call-up for Lee, who was on the second team for 159 days after the season started on April 1. He answered the call by taking the mound for three consecutive days on April 8-10 against the Gochuk Kiwoom.
His first start on the 8th was not so lucky. With Park Sang-won and Yoon Dae-kyung rested and the bullpen activated from the sixth inning, he entered with a 4-3 lead in the eighth. After a single by Song Sung-moon, Jeon Byung-woo’s grounder to second base was missed by Jung Eun-won. It was disappointing because the inning could have ended with a double play.
But he was not to be deterred. In the second game of the doubleheader on Sept. 9, Lee Min-woo pitched the sixth inning with the score tied 1-1 and struck out Lim Ji-yeol (right fielder), Kim Dong-hyun (third baseman) and Kim Joo-hyung (right fielder) on 11 pitches. Hanwha scored the game-winning run on Noh’s RBI double in the seventh inning to win 3-1, and Lee Min-woo picked up the save.
In the next game on Tuesday, Lee struck out Park Chan-hyuk (grounder to shortstop), Kim Hui-jip (grounder to shortstop), and Kim Xiang (fly ball to center field) in the seventh inning with a 9-7 lead. It was his first hold of the season as the team rallied for a 9-8 victory.안전놀이터
It was his third straight start, but he was efficient, totaling 37 pitches. His fastball, which was measured at 145 mph, two-seam, cutter, and other offspeed pitches were his mainstays. With Lee Min-woo giving the bullpen some breathing room, Hanwha swept a four-game series, including a doubleheader against Kiwoom, and has now won six straight games to move out of 10th place.
Lee Min-woo, a former Hyochun High-Kyungsung University player who joined KIA in the first round in 2015, was given a chance as a starter but did not develop as expected. On April 23 last year, he was traded to Hanwha along with outfielder Lee Jin-young in exchange for pitcher Kim Do-hyun. In the early stages of his career, Lee split time between starting and relieving, but he was unable to maintain consistency and finished the season in the second team. Last year, he went 1-1 with a 6.25 ERA in 25 games (44⅔ innings).
This year, he was left out of first-team spring training from the start and stayed in the second team. In 32 games (33⅓ innings) in the Futures League, he was 3-1 with a 5.40 ERA in six starts. Two big outings raised his ERA, but he stabilized after July with a 2.77 ERA in 13 games.
In addition to being a stalwart on the mound for the Futures, Min-woo also played the role of a senior, showing the younger pitchers his stuff. When he didn’t receive a call-up to the first team on the first day of September, it looked like his season would be over, but he didn’t give up. In September, he pitched three scoreless innings in two games, and he has made the most of his first-team opportunity.