Lotte Mound’s Hidden Card, ‘155km Man’ forgot about the nightmare of the opening season’s out

A man of 155 kilometers. Will he be able to emerge as a “secret weapon” of Lotte’s mound this year.

It was April 1 last year. The opening day of the regular season of the 2023 KBO League was held. Lotte had the opening game against Doosan at Jamsil Stadium. Biting and biting matches continued. Lotte allowed Doosan to come from behind 8-9 at the bottom of the eighth inning, and put Lee Min-seok (21) as relief pitcher.

Any more lost point was like a loss. He had to block the runner’s scoring somehow. Still, Lee remained calm. Lee successfully ended the inning by hitting a flyout to center field after two pitches, including one in which first baseman Lee Yoo-chan stole second and another in which he threw a 153-km fastball to Heo Kyung-min. He was on the verge of scoring, but blocked a runner from scoring.

As Lee Min-seok blocked Lotte’s additional loss, Lotte was able to have hope. Coincidentally, Lotte tied the game at 9-9 when Ahn Kwon-soo’s triple to right-center hit in the top of the ninth inning. Having already used up the must-win card of Koo Seung-min, Lotte placed Lee on the mound in the bottom of the ninth inning as well. Having caught Jose Rojas through a fly-out to right field after a full count game, Lee managed Kim Jae-hwan to swing and miss with a 139-km slider, resulting in a strikeout, and quickly secured two outs.

However, Lee Min-seok, who sent Yang Eui-ji out with a straight walk, complained of pain in his right elbow during the match against Kim Jae-ho, and eventually had to step down from the mound. Lotte dragged the game to extra time after many twists and turns, but eventually suffered a 10-12 come-from-behind defeat after hitting a walk-off three-run home run by Rojas in the bottom of the 11th inning.

Most of all, Lee’s injury was a concern. In a nutshell, it was a serious injury. As he underwent surgery to remove a bone fragment from his right elbow and ligament bonding surgery, he had to get some devastating news that he is out for the season. He pitched one ⅓ in the opening game to prove that he is a player who can join the must-win group, but was it frustrating to end the season after just one game in the opening game.

Lee Min-seok is also a promising pitcher who is also drawing keen attention from Lotte. Lee, who joined Lotte in 2022 as a first-choice player, pitched 33 ⅔ innings in 27 games in his first season as a professional player, gaining experience with one win, one loss, five holds and a 5.88 ERA. As he entered the opening roster last year, expectations were high that his performance would be useful, but his performance was only 0.00 ERA in one game, one ⅓ and one inning. He would have been a valuable player for Lotte had it not been for injuries.

Lee’s specialty is fastball. He boasts fastballs with a maximum speed of 155 kilometers, which is drawing attention as a secret weapon of Lotte’s mound this year. Currently, Lee is in the process of returning to action at the spring camp that is taking place in Guam. Since he took the operating table, he is also taking a cautious approach to when he will return to action.

“First of all, I will not rush to take the mound. I will be able to play in the Futures League in April and move up to the first division in May,” Lee said at the Dededo Sports Complex in Guam.

Lee, who had to watch his teammates 꽁머니환전 play on TV after playing only in the opening game last year, said, “I was frustrated because I had to watch him play. It was similar to the moment when I was nominated as a professional player in my third year of high school. I was not allowed to play even then. Then, I remembered how I felt.” This is how desperate he is to return to the mound.

Lee is considered a possible resource for both starters and midfielder Lee. The exact time of his return is unknown yet, but if he returns within this year, he could become a hidden card for the Lotte mound. Will Lee be able to return to the mound this year to display his signature fastball? “I don’t think about arresting him,” Lee said. “This year, as long as I go back to how I was before I got hurt, it will be a success. Now, I am committed to starting from the beginning,” Lee said, vowing to take steps step by step before returning to the mound.

As Lotte operated the winning team last year, it was clear that the team was only dependent on certain players. That was one of the reasons why it failed to sustain the sensation in the early days of the season. Expectations are high that this year will be different from last year as Lotte expanded its pitching staff. If Lee Min-seok, who played only one game last year, joins the team’s primary league, Lotte’s mound will be much more solid.

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