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Following dominant KBO season, Giants' ace Straily works on new pitch

14:27 February 23, 2021

BUSAN, Feb. 23 (Yonhap) -- After leading their league in strikeouts and finishing among leaders in several other categories, most pitchers would feel content and decide there isn't any room for improvement.

Dan Straily isn't most pitchers.

The 32-year-old ace for the Lotte Giants is working on a new pitch, the cutter, in his second spring training in the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO). Straily tried his cutter to a hitter for the first time during his live batting practice last Saturday at Sajik Stadium in Busan, 450 kilometers southeast of Seoul.

Dan Straily of the Lotte Giants pitches in a live batting practice at Sajik Stadium in Busan, 450 kilometers southeast of Seoul, on Feb. 20, 2021, in this photo provided by the Giants. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

"I never stop trying to get better," Straily told reporters after his session. "(The cutter) is between a fastball and a slider. It seems like it was an easy choice to add to my arsenal this year."

Straily may not exactly need another pitch, not after dominating the KBO last year in his first season. He topped the league with 205 strikeouts and led all pitchers with a 7.80 wins above replacement (WAR), an advanced statistic that measures players' overall value. Among other basic stats, Straily ranked second with a 2.50 ERA and tied for third with 15 wins. Only two pitchers tossed more innings than Straily's 194 2/3.

He accomplished all this with a five-pitch mix: fastball, slider, curve, changeup and sinker, according to the baseball statistics site Statiz.

Dan Straily of the Lotte Giants pitches in a live batting practice at Sajik Stadium in Busan, 450 kilometers southeast of Seoul, on Feb. 20, 2021, in this photo provided by the Giants. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

As for how far he had come along with the cutter, Straily said, "If the season started today, I wouldn't throw it. You have to trust your pitches to throw in games, that's for sure."

Straily also added a pitch to his repertoire during last year's spring training. Back then, the right-hander worked on the curveball, with some help from his Korean teammate, Park Se-woong.

Though Straily only used it 5 percent of the time, according to Statiz, Straily threw it to strike out Mel Rojas Jr. of the KT Wiz, who would win the regular season MVP, in the first game of the 2020 season.

"(The cutter) is not perfect. But we have a long time to go before the season starts (on April 3)," Straily said.

Dan Straily of the Lotte Giants pitches in a live batting practice at Sajik Stadium in Busan, 450 kilometers southeast of Seoul, on Feb. 20, 2021, in this photo provided by the Giants. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

Barring any unforeseen development, Straily will get his second straight Opening Day nod. The game will be against the SK Wyverns, who have been sold to the retail giant Shinsegae Group and will have a new name and uniform before the start of the season.

It'll be a historic first game for the newly created ball club, though Straily was quick to point out that he'll be facing most of the same hitters that he shut down over six innings in his final regular season start last year.

Asked about starting against the new-look club, Straily said he had one goal in mind.

"Make sure they lose," he said with a smile.

Dan Straily of the Lotte Giants pitches in a live batting practice at Sajik Stadium in Busan, 450 kilometers southeast of Seoul, on Feb. 20, 2021, in this photo provided by the Giants. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

jeeho@yna.co.kr
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