KIA Tigers left-hander Lee “Young-gun” Lee has been named to the baseball team for the Hangzhou 2022 Asian Games and will make two starts before joining the squad. Foreign pitcher Mario Sanchez is on track to return from injury.
Before the 13th game of the 2023 Shinhan Bank SOL KBO League against the Doosan Bears at Gwangju-KIA Champions Field on Friday, KIA head coach Kim Jong-kook explained the physical condition and future plans of Lee and Sanchez.
Earlier, Lee was removed from the mound after giving up four runs (three earned) on five hits in 4 1/3 innings with three walks and five strikeouts in his start in the second game of a doubleheader against the LG Twins on April 9 because of a callous on his left middle finger. A recurring nagging problem, the “blister,” was holding him back.
KIA removed Lee from the roster the next day, and at the time, manager Kim Jong-guk explained that it was not a major injury, saying he would only need to skip one rotation. Lee will return to the first team after 10 days of rest, as stated by Kim.
However, given that the Asian Games baseball team’s training starts on the 23rd, Lee will be away for a while after his first appearance. The exact timing of his return has yet to be determined, but the manager believes Lee will make one start sometime next week.
“It’s a situation where the flesh is regrowing now,” said Kim Jong-guk about the calluses. “I don’t think he’ll be able to throw a lot of balls, and I’m thinking of giving him about two or three innings,” he said. He will start against the Gwangju Kiwoom Heroes on the 20th or the Daejeon Hanwha Eagles on the 21st.”
This season, Lee has a 10-6 record with a 4.19 ERA in 23 games and 107 1/3 innings pitched, and he’s reached the 10-win plateau for the second consecutive season as a starter. A forgettable blister has plagued Lee, but the third-year pro has been able to navigate through crises big and small. That’s why KIA is lamenting the loss of Lee, who can go at least five innings.
The good news for KIA is that they have a backup pitcher in Lee who will be available in his absence. Sanchez is expected to return to the mound soon, as he has been making good progress since his injury.
Signed as a replacement for Adonis Medina, Sanchez made his KBO debut on July 9 against the Suwon KT Wiz. He threw 6 1/3 innings of five-hit ball (one home run) with 10 strikeouts and one earned run. Although he has had his ups and downs, he has done his part, going at least five innings in every game from a road game against the Lotte Giants on July 13 to a game against the Gwangju Hanwha Eagles on July 25. For the season, Sanchez is 4-2 with a 5.28 ERA in eight games and 44 1/3 innings pitched.
However, after the game against Hanwha on August 25, a problem arose that neither the club nor the player expected. Sanchez suddenly felt unwell, and KIA removed him from the first team roster the next day. Everyone hoped it wasn’t a serious injury, but the fears were realized. Sanchez was examined at the hospital and diagnosed with a partial injury to the medial collateral ligament of the right subject (elbow) and symptoms of impingement syndrome. He would be out for an extended period of time.
At the time, KIA said, “He is not in a condition that requires surgery and will be rehabilitated with injection therapy. The rehabilitation period is expected to take about three weeks, after which he will start pitching in the bullpen,” explained Sanchez’s condition. That’s a long time to wait, especially when you factor in the time he’ll need to get his feel for the game.
However, Sanchez has recovered quickly and has been playing catch since last week and has entered the long toss phase. He also threw bullpen pitches this week. Kia said that if all goes well, he should be able to start pitching again soon.
Manager Kim Jong-kook said, “We’ll start live pitching on Sunday (17th), and then we’ll have to check the schedule once more to see how things are going,” adding that it’s possible he could pitch next week. Of course, it is a prerequisite for him to be pain-free.
When asked by the press about Sanchez filling the void left by Lee, Kim said, “It’s the best thing. I think it’s the best of both worlds,” Kim said positively.
The team is not without starting resources, including ‘veteran’ Yang Hyun-jong, foreign pitcher Thomas Pannoni, and ‘lefty’ Yoon Young-chul. In addition, Hwang Dong-ha and Kim Gun-gook, who have recently been used as substitute starters, have shown promise.
However, if Sanchez, who can provide an anchor as a foreign pitcher, can do his job, it will take a lot of pressure off the team. With a tight schedule, KIA has been anxiously awaiting Sanchez’s return. After all, the team needs Sanchez to get back on track so that they can continue to squeeze every last ounce of energy out of him until October. With a whopping 22 games canceled due to rain through the 14th, Kia will have to play its regular season schedule through mid-October.안전놀이터
If Lee Yi-ri, who wears the Korean flag, is out of the starting lineup for more than two weeks, the role of the foreign pitchers will become more prominent. KIA can only hope that Sanchez returns healthy and quickly. It remains to be seen if the Tigers’ dreams of reaching greater heights will come true with the return of a foreign pitcher.