Key reliever more excited than nervous ahead of WBC debut
Published : Jan 17, 2023 - 10:21
Updated : Jan 17, 2023 - 10:21
Go Woo-suk, pitcher for the South Korean national baseball team for the World Baseball Classic, speaks at a press conference in Seoul on Monday. (Yonhap)

The top closer in South Korean baseball last year will make his World Baseball Classic debut in March.

But if Go Woo-suk is feeling nervous, he isn't telling anyone.

"There is still a lot of time left. Rather than feeling any sort of pressure, I am excited more than anything else," Go said at a national team press conference in Seoul on Monday. "Every time I play wearing the national flag, it gets my heart pumping."

Go led the Korea Baseball Organization with 42 saves last year, while posting an excellent 1.48 ERA in 60 2/3 innings for the LG Twins. He struck out 80 strikeouts and walked 21. Few pitchers, relievers or starters, threw as consistently hard as the 24-year-old right-hander.

Go's selection for the WBC, combined with the omission of veteran closer Oh Seung-hwan, represents the passing of the torch in South Korea's bullpen.

Oh is the KBO's career saves leader with 370 and pitched in each of the first four editions of the WBC. In 2022, though, Oh showed some cracks at age 40. The average velocity of his signature fastball has dipped for three straight years, too.

Go, who grew up admiring Oh and exhibits uncanny similarities with the veteran in his delivery and mannerism on the mound, has long been touted as the second coming of Oh. At this year's WBC, Go said he wants to create his own legacy.

"I don't look at this as an opportunity to inherit legacy of great relievers that came before me," Go said. "All I want to do is to work on things I did well last year and put them to use at the tournament."

Go had his first taste of high-pressure international competition at the Tokyo Olympics in 2021, and it wasn't a sweet one.

In the semifinals against Japan, Go served up three runs in the bottom of the eighth for a 5-2 loss.

At one out with a runner at first, Go induced a groundball to first off the bat of Kensuke Kondoh. While covering first base to receive a throw for the potential inning-ending double play, Go failed to get his foot on the bag.

A wild pitch, an intentional walk and another walk loaded the bases, and then Tetsuto Yamada smacked a bases-clearing double to provide the final margin of victory for Japan.

South Korea will face Japan in their second Pool B game on March 10 at Tokyo Dome, a chance for Go to redeem himself if he enters the game.

"Back at the Olympics, I just wasn't good enough. Since that game, I've been trying to push myself harder and get better," Go said. "If my effort hasn't been in vain, then I should have a better performance this time. I will pitch with confidence if I face Japan again." (Yonhap)