Last year was a difficult one for Seon Gi Kim as he started the season at Class A before being shuffled off to Rookie ball and extended spring training. This year, it appears he's headed in a different direction.
The Mariners prospect recorded a career-high 13 strikeouts over six hitless innings Saturday as the short-season Everett AquaSox blanked the Spokane Indians, 2-0, to complete a sweep of their doubleheader.
Kim (2-0) threw 93 pitches and allowed two baserunners. He shattered his previous career high of eight strikeouts, established on July 1, 2010 in the Rookie-level Arizona League.
"He had a good curveball working tonight that he hadn't had last year," AquaSox pitching coach Rich Dorman said. "His cureveball's come a long way since last year. He's throwing it ahead in the count, behind in the count. Same thing with his slider. He added a changeup as well, which gives him confidence having a fourth pitch. He's gone a long ways."
The 20-year-old right-hander was perfect through three innings before Hirotoshi Onaka reached on an error by first baseman Taylor Ard. Cam Schiller represented the only scuff in Kim's line as he drew a one-out walk in the fifth.
Kim fanned at least one batter in every inning and struck out the side three times. Five of the strikeouts were swinging, while eight Indians went down looking.
"He was aggressive, really aggressive," Dorman said. "He was smart. He made the pitch when he had to make the pitch. He read hitters' swings, read bats pretty well and he just kept them off-balance."
Right-handed reliever Brandon Plotz took over in the seventh after the South Korea native reached his pitch limit. Royce Bolinger ended the no-hitter with a one-out single to center field before Plotz induced consecutive groundouts to end the game.
"The kid fouled off quite a few pitches," Dorman said. "Plotz ended up throwing a changeup and it just caught the end of the bat and dumped in that triangle behind second base. Our center fielder, [Janelfry] Zorrilla, couldn't quite get there. If it hung up there just a hair longer, he would've been able to make a play."
Dorman also credited Everett's defense for getting the no-hitter that far, emphasizing the efforts of shortstop Ketel Marte and second baseman Christopher Taylor.
"It was a team effort, an all-around team effort," Dorman said. "When the defense was needed, they came up with the big plays."
In his season debut on Monday, Kim allowed one run on four his over six innings while striking out three and walking one. Through his first two starts, he has a 0.75 ERA with 16 strikeouts.
So what can Dorman expect to see out of him for the rest of the season?
"Just to continue his development and mature, continue to gain confidence in his ability," he said. "Finally, the hard work he's been doing is starting to pay off. Last year, he battled through adversity, starting in Clinton and getting sent back down to extended [spring training], even Pulaski in the Appalachian League. He's worked really hard.
"As far as he goes, however far, he's going to take himself. If he continues to do this, who knows where he's going to finish the year?"