Dean, Tigers looking for late-season surge

Naugatuck native Pat Dean is in his second season pitching for the Kia Tigers of the Korean Baseball Organization in South Korea. -CONTRIBUTED

Winning comes with no guarantees in the game of baseball.

Last season, halfway around the world in South Korea, the Doosan Bears were looking to win their third straight Korean Baseball Organization (KBO) championship. Along came the Kia Tigers, who knocked off the Bears in the championship series with the help of Naugatuck native and former Minnesota Twins pitcher Pat Dean, who won game three of the best-of-seven series.

The Tigers came into this season poised to defend the club’s first title since 2009, and Dean was looking to up his game after posting a 9-7 campaign last year.

The Naugy left-hander started out just the way he had hoped, working a shutout into the seventh inning in his first appearance of the season (6 1/3 IP, 3H, 0R, 3K’s).

But, by the end of April, the Kia Tigers were struggling to find some consistency and fell to the middle of the pack in the ten-team circuit.

“Baseball is a funny sport,” Dean said. “Sometimes the ball just doesn’t bounce your way. Teams in this league are good and some have definitely got better since last year.”

Dean picked up his second win of the season in late April (7 IP, 5H, 1R, 5K’s) against the Bears, and had two no decisions working into the sixth inning. There were times he struggled, as did the Tigers, who endured a few lengthy skids in May and June.

“Last year, everything just clicked for us,” Dean said. “This year has been a little more of a struggle. Some injuries have played a role in that as well.

“I’ve had some mechanical flaws that were preventing me from being able to repeat locations effectively. But the past few weeks have been noticeably better in terms of effectiveness and hitting my spots.”

Dean was 5-5 at the All-Star break with a 4.88 ERA last year. He ramped it up down the stretch, going 4-2 with a 3.18 ERA to help the Tigers win the league title. Dean was 3-5 with a 5.85 ERA at the break this season.

Dean spent some time in the bullpen following the All-Star break, and he responded by working four games and allowing four hits and no runs.

Dean was inserted back into the starting rotation on July 29 and worked five innings against the Samsung Lions. He allowed four hits and one run and struck out five before being lifted following the sixth inning after surrendering three more runs.

“The All-Star break always seems to come at the right time,” Dean said. “A couple of days to clear my head definitely can go a long way. Now, in the second half, I just want to go out there and be aggressive and give what I’ve got to do my job.”

As of last week, Dean was 4-6 on the season with a 5.89 ERA in 19 starts and 23 appearances. The Kia Tigers (48-57) were in eighth place but within reach of fifth place and the last playoff spot as the final two months of the season come around.

“There is still a lot of baseball to be played,” Dean said. “All we need is to get hot at the right time like we did last season down the stretch. If we can get into the playoffs, who knows what can happen.”