‘I’m not used to this taste’ The Lotte Giants, who spent 8 billion won to sign An Bang-manim ahead of the season, are smiling broadly at the Yoo Kang-nam effect at the start of the season.
Yoo Kang-nam, the “golden bullet” full-time catcher who wore the pinstripes for 12 years after joining the professional ranks, signed a four-year, 8 billion won free agent contract with Lotte ahead of this season to play for the Giants.
Lotte’s mound struggled in the opening month, with the starting lineup shaky except for Na Kyun-ahn. However, the veteran pitching staff of Kim Sang-soo, Shin Jeong-rak, and Yoon Myung-joon, who rose to the occasion after the release of veterans Kim Seung-min and Kim Won-joong, held together and rattled off nine straight wins. Whether the pitchers were faltering or pitching well, Lotte’s bullpen was protected by catcher Yoo Kang-nam.
This season, Yoo Kang-nam has played in 44 games, second only to LG’s Park Dong-won, who has played in 49. He has a low stolen base rate of 20 percent, but his defense and unique framing, which allows him to throw at crucial moments, have taken a lot of pressure off pitchers.
Through six games, he’s batting .231 with 31 hits, one home run, 16 RBI, and 15 runs scored. His offense hasn’t been great, but when he’s on the field, he’s giving it his all.
On March 23 against the NC Dinos at Sajik Stadium, while playing defense to catch a runner caught in a rundown, Yoo injured his knee while removing his foot to avoid colliding with the runner. After undergoing a medical examination and being told that there was nothing wrong with his bones or muscle ligaments, he returned to the field after a day’s rest, showing off the strength that earned him the nickname Goldmine Bulldog.
Sajik Stadium, where the three-game series was held last weekend. After resting on the first day, Yoo kept the bases loaded for two consecutive days and led the winning series. In the second game of the series, down 3-0 in the bottom of the sixth inning, Yoo hit a two-run double to bring KIA within striking distance. After pinch-hitter Jung Hoon hit a single to bring in Ko Seung-min from third and Yoo Kang-nam from second, Lotte tied the game again, but Noh Jik-hyuk’s game-winning hit in the ninth inning gave them a thrilling victory.
After singling with one out and advancing to 먹튀검증 second on a wild pitch, Yoo gritted his teeth and raced home on Jung Hoon’s short hit. Lotte kept the momentum going until the sixth inning, when Yoo Kang-nam, who had relieved starter Na Gyun-an, hit a game-winning single from catcher.
Lotte lost on the last day of the three-game series. Both teams were tied at 0-0 until the sixth inning. Yoo Kang-nam protected the bases with a mask. In the third inning, catcher Yoo Kang-nam’s leadership shone through. He grounded out to Ryu Ji-hyeok at second base, and against Ko Jong-wook, a perfectly pitched forkball outside the 0B 2S zone, he showed off his unique framing to get a three-pitch strikeout.
The catcher, Yoo Kang-nam, who had just survived the threat of giving up the go-ahead run, scooped up the ball and was all smiles again. Coming off the mound, starter Han Hyun-hee gave a thumbs-up to the brilliant framing.
Despite narrowly missing out on the sweep, Lotte’s signing of Yoo Kang-nam this season has been a huge success. The numbers may be disappointing, but the pitchers are having a blast throwing the ball, thanks to Yoo Kang-nam, the “Geumgangbulguk” catcher who brings a playful energy to the field.