Foreign pitcher Thomas Pannoni, 29, has stepped up his game and become the savior of the Kia Motors League’s fifth-place team.
Pannoni pitched 6⅔ innings against Gwangju Hanwha on May 5, allowing three runs on seven hits with two walks and 10 strikeouts in a 9-3 win. The 10 strikeouts were a career-high. He has led KIA’s rebound with two consecutive wins, including a no-hitter against Gwangju Lotte on March 30 (6⅔ innings, five hits, two walks, four strikeouts).
Since returning to KIA as a substitute last month, Pannoni is 2-0 with a 2.01 ERA and 23 strikeouts in four games (22⅓ innings). He has been able to utilize his experience in the KBO last year and hasn’t had to adjust.
Pannoni also came to KIA last year as a replacement in July. He went 3-4 with a 2.72 ERA and 73 strikeouts in 14 games (82⅔ innings), but was not re-signed. He was overlooked by the KIA, who were looking for a relief pitcher instead of the finesse-type Pannoni. When KIA lifted his holdout, he became a free agent, but other teams in the KBO did not pursue him.
Back in the United States, Panoni signed a minor league contract with the Milwaukee Brewers and went 3-1 with a 2.70 ERA and 50 strikeouts in 11 games (53⅓ innings) at Triple-A. He was called up to the major leagues in late June and pitched one game before being released and recalled by KIA, who were looking for a replacement pitcher.
The team’s better performance than last year is a big boost for KIA, which is fighting for a top-five finish. Speaking to reporters before the game against Hanwha on June 6, KIA manager Kim Jong-guk said of Pannoni, “He’s more adaptable than last year. Last year, he had some difficulties in the second half of the rotation, but he threw six innings consistently,” he said.안전놀이터
“His cutter is better than last year. The cutter percentage has increased, and it comes in a little stronger. The tip of the ball movement of the cutter, which has a similar trajectory to the fastball, is better. Not only the cutter but also the forehand has improved.” In fact, Panoni’s average velocity on his cutter increased from 139.2 mph last year to 140.2 mph this year, and his groundball rate increased from 34.3 percent to 43.0 percent. The average velocity of his four-seam fastball also increased (142.3km→142.9km).
Meanwhile, KIA will look to sweep Hanwha on June 6 with another foreign pitcher, Mario Sanchez. Choi Won-jun (first base), Park Chan-ho (shortstop), Kim Do-young (third base), Na Sung-beom (right field), Choi Hyung-woo (designated hitter), Socrates Brito (center field), Lee Woo-sung (left field), Kim Tae-gun (catcher), and Kim Kyu-sung (second base) are the lineup. Kim Kyu-sung got a chance to start at second base after Kim Sun-bin was removed from the lineup to manage his health.