Doosan Bears pitcher Lee Young-ha is back on the mound for the first time in 294 days. It took more than nine months for him to be acquitted in the first round of his trial for alleged school violence. After a long wait, Young-ha showed off his fitness on the mound, throwing a fastball up to 149km/h.
Doosan added Lee to its first-team roster on 3 June against the Suwon KT WIZ. Lee filled the void left by Chung Chul-won, who was suspended for late-night drinking at the WBC the previous day.
Coach Lee Seung-yeop said, “Lee Young-ha said she was fine, but I didn’t register her in the first team right away because I thought she might lack a bit of practical experience, but with Jung Chul-won out, we didn’t have much of an alternative. For his first start, we’re going to put him in a more relaxed situation so he can pitch without pressure. If he pitches as well as he did in the Futures League, he will be able to fill the void left by Chul-won Jung.”
“It’s been a long time since I’ve been to a ballpark like this, so it’s nice to see the fans and feel good. My teammates are half welcoming, half teasing (laughs). (Park) Chi-kook was the most excited because he didn’t have anyone to play with, and I’m looking forward to sharing the battery with (Yang) Will for the first time in a long time,” he said.
Lee Young-ha made one appearance in the Futures League and was immediately promoted to the first team. “It’s been a long time since I’ve pitched in a game, but there were no sensory issues. I think I’ll adapt quickly. I was expecting to reach 155km/h because I was off for a long time, but I didn’t get as much restraint as I thought (laughs). I’ve been looking at the data with the second team coaches to fix things like my arm angle and centre shift that I couldn’t fix on the first team mound,” he said.
Doosan currently has a big hole in its starting rotation. In addition to foreign pitcher Dylan Pyle, who is actually on long-term injured reserve, Kwak Bin and Choi Won-jun are out of the first team roster due to back pain and sluggishness, respectively. The team will be without two to four starters for the foreseeable future.
Lee Young-ha, who has played in the starting rotation in the past, could be in line for a spot in the starting line-up, but Lee doesn’t expect to see a ‘starting Lee Young-ha’ this season.
“I think Lee will have to take on a bullpen role this season, and I don’t think she has enough time to prepare for a starting role. He needs to throw three or four more games to improve his pitch count, and that will take more than a month. It would be good if he can fulfil his role as a middle setup man this season.”
Young-ha Lee is also not looking for a starting role right away. “I think it would be greedy for me to start this season. I want to throw as many pitches as possible out of the bullpen and lead the team to victory. Talking about next season is too far away. It’s important to pitch well in the position I’m given right now.”
On this day, Lee Young-ha surprised everyone by showing up with an unexpectedly slimmer body. She revealed that she had actually lost 8kg.
She said, “I originally tried to lose about 3-4kg, but I lost about 8kg. When I became plump, my weight was almost in the mid-three digits, but now it’s in the mid-two digits (laughs). People tell me that my face has improved as I’ve lost weight. I think I’m in better shape thanks to the weight loss, so I’m ready. I will show my performance on the baseball field in the future.”
It didn’t take long to see Lee’s return to the first team. Taking the mound in the bottom of the eighth inning with a comfortable 3-13 lead in the three-game series, Lee made his first appearance since 13 August last year against the SSG Landers in Jamsil, 294 days after his last start. 먹튀검증
In the first batter’s box and with runners on 2B-2S, Lee struck out the side with a five-pitch 135km/h slider. After striking out the first two batters he faced, Lee struck out Ahn Chi-young on a fly ball to right field, gave up a single to Kang Hyun-woo in left field, and induced Jang Jun-won to ground out to first base to complete his comeback.
On the day, Lee topped out at 149 km/h (club measurement) on his fastball. With his fastball and slider still in good shape, Lee’s hope that Young-ha can fill the void left by Jeong Chul-won for the time being seems more realistic. It will be interesting to see if Lee can be the hero to save the Doosan mound from the chaos it has been in since June.