Padres’ reliever Go Woo-suk not mad at ex-KBO teammate for homering: ‘I have to be better’

March 18, 2024

This could well have been a crowning moment for Go Woo-suk, the South Korean reliever for the San Diego Padres. He came on with the Padres holding a 5-2 lead over Go’s former team, the LG Twins of the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO), in their exhibition game in Seoul. Get three quick outs and Go would have his first spring training save in front of his hometown fans.

However, Go looked shaky from early on, as Park Hae-min led off the inning with a single. Two batters later, Lee Jae-won hammered a fastball from Go for a two-run home run, cutting the deficit to 5-4.

Go ended up getting the next two outs for the save, but the process wasn’t ideal for someone trying to survive the final cut for the 26-man Opening Day roster this week.

“I am lucky that I got the save,” Go told Yonhap News Agency in a chat in the clubhouse after the game. “It felt surreal pitching against LG. It was pretty exciting to hear cheers from the fans on the way to the mound. But it wasn’t easy to pitch against such a strong team.”

Go was a key part of that team, which won the 2023 Korean Series title. Go locked down the save in the clinching game against the KT Wiz in November, and now that same team gave him so much trouble Monday.

But Go said he had no hard feelings toward his old mates for spoiling his homecoming.

“I have no reason to get mad at Jae-won for hitting that home run,” Go said. “He put such a great swing on it that I was surprised. I have to be better.”

Go, who led KBO closers with 139 saves in the 2019-2023 period, had no trouble with his velocity. He touched 94.9 miles per hour with the fastball in that ninth inning, but Go said he thinks he has more to give.

“In MLB, you can stay focused on baseball more easily. And I am surrounded by so many talented players with a professional approach,” Go said. “I am trying not to fall behind. I keep telling myself every day that I have to get better and better.”

Go said he is trying to learn from his South Korean teammate in San Diego, shortstop Kim Ha-seong. Now entering his fourth big league season, Kim has established himself as an elite defender and an improving hitter.

Kim won the National League Gold Glove at the utility position last year, becoming the first Asian infielder to win the prestigious fielding award.

“He’s become a player to watch in MLB and he’s had a really nice homecoming this week. It’s been great to see,” Go said. “I am still fighting for my place on the team, and so I haven’t been able to enjoy the experience as much.”

Go is on the roster bubble with the Padres facing an 11 a.m. Wednesday deadline to trim their traveling squad of 31 players to 26 players for the season-opening Seoul Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers.

“Since the moment I signed with San Diego, my goal has been to become a full-time major league player,” Go said. “And to realize that dream, my stuff has to get better. And I want to pitch well for fans who’ve been behind me all along.”