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Now I'm at the back of the line...minimizing blonsaves is the goal

Cho Sang-woo earned his first save in 966 days.

Kiwoom Heroes defeated the Lotte Giants of the Shinhan SOL Bank KBO League 2024 on June 21 at the Gocheok SkyDome in Seoul, South Korea. The 5-2 victory extended Kiwoom's winning streak to two games.

Jo Sang-woo, who entered the game with two outs in the eighth inning, recorded four strikeouts and no runs to earn the save. It was his first save since being called up. It was the first save for the first team in 966 days since October 2021.

After being discharged from the military last winter, Cho returned to the team this season but was unable to take on the role of closer. After serving his mandatory military service as a social service worker, his physical condition was not as good as expected and he started the season as a middle reliever. Moon Sung-hyun and Joo Seung-woo were the first pitchers to take over as the closer. It wasn't until recently that Cho was given the opportunity to pitch again.

"I didn't realize it had been that long," Cho said, "but the atmosphere after closing games has been a long time coming. I even forgot the post-game huddle ritual, so I just stared and mimicked it," he laughs. "We had a three-run lead, so I felt comfortable throwing. I pitched hard to protect the three points that the beasts gave up," he reflected.

There was also a crisis. In the top of the ninth, Lee Jung-hoon doubled and Hwang Sung-bin singled to put runners on first and third. Manager Hong Won-ki personally went to the mound to encourage Cho Sang-woo. "The manager came to the mound and said, 'Sang-woo, it's been a long time,'" Cho said. I think he came to make me feel better," he laughed. After Hong Won-ki's visit, Jo Sang-woo struck out Ko Seung-min to end the game.

Go Seung-min's at-bat was also ambiguous. The ball floated between the left fielder, third baseman, and shortstop, and Dawson, the left fielder, barely managed to catch it. "I thought, 'That's it,' because the ball was floating, so (Kim) Jae-hyun was going to see his brother, and suddenly Dawson was sliding," Cho said. "I went to an ambiguous place, and Dawson caught it nicely. Thank you," he laughed.

"I actually didn't think too much about how many innings I was going to be in. When I heard I was going to be the closer, I thought, 'Oh, I'm going to the back,'" he said. "Still, it's the most comfortable to take care of your body and warm up, so I thought I could start preparing a little more comfortably." The closer is the most 'regular' of the bullpen pitchers, as the situation and innings are almost always set.

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27 days ago

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