“Im Chang-min silently fulfills his role as the eldest brother”
Kiwoom Heroes’ Im Chang-min took the mound in the top of the ninth inning with a 5-2 lead in the 13th game of the 2023 Shinhan Bank SOL KBO League between his team and the Lotte Giants at Gocheok Sky Dome in Seoul, South Korea, on April 19, and pitched one inning of scoreless baseball with 14 pitches and one strikeout to earn his 20th save of the season.
Lim was selected by the Hyundai Unicorns (now the Kiwoom Heroes) with the 11th overall pick in the second round of the 2008 Korean Baseball Organization draft. After failing to make an impact with the Heroes, he switched to the NC Dinos after the 2012 season.
In 2015, Lim began his “back door” career with a 1-5 record with 31 saves and a 3.80 GAA in 61 games, followed by a “career-high” season the following year with a 1-3 record with six shutouts and a 2.57 GAA in 65 games, and a career-high 29 saves in 2017.
However, Lim began to struggle in 2018, appearing in just eight games, and despite showing signs of rebounding in 2020, he was released by the NC after the 2021 season. He was later linked to the Doosan Bears, where he continued his career, but after failing to make an impact, he was informed that he would not be re-signed and was given a ‘Chinjung’ Kiwoom jersey prior to this season.
Since returning to Chinjung, Lim has been a completely different player. He started his rebound in April with a 1.23 ERA in one hold, and in mid-May, he took over the back end of the rotation and is on pace for the best season of his career. In particular, he was 1-2 with a 1.19 ERA in 41 appearances before the 19th, when he reached the 20-save plateau for the first time in six years after 2017.
Against Lotte on the 18th, Lim had a tough time shutting the back door as he gave up two walks in the top of the ninth inning with a narrow 5-4 lead. However, the game on the 19th was different. Taking the mound in the top of the ninth inning with a 5-2 lead, Lim ended his clean start by getting leadoff hitter Jeon Jun-woo to pop out to second base on two pitches. He then induced an infield grounder to Ahn Chi-hong to get the second out, and shut the door on the next batter, Park Seung-wook, with a 144-kilometer fastball for a strikeout.
After the game, Lim, who reached the 20-save milestone for the first time in six years, said, “I want to give myself a pat on the back for making it to 20 saves. The team is in a difficult situation, 스포츠토토 and I’ve been able to maintain my good performance so far because they believed in me whenever I was shaky.” Coach Hong Won-ki gave a thumbs-up, saying, “Congratulations to Lim Chang-min on his 20-save record, as he is doing his part as the eldest brother.”
Lim, who started out as a reliever at the beginning of the season, didn’t expect to reach 20 saves as he has been the closer since May. “I didn’t think about 20 saves. I think I was able to get to where I am now,” he said. “The team was in a difficult situation, so I was very nervous.