“I was excited to come with Uri…” Tigers left-hander Young-geon on having one instead of two.
KIA Tigers pitcher Choi Ji-min has been named to the Hangzhou Asian Games baseball team. His original teammate, Lee Yi-ri, a one-year senior, was dropped from the roster the day before the call-up. Choi’s heart was filled with even more disappointment.
On September 22, the Korea Baseball Softball Association (KBSA) Performance Enhancement Committee and the KBO Power Enhancement Committee announced, “We have decided to replace a member of the baseball team for the Hangzhou Asian Games. The player is KIA pitcher Lee Yi-ri, who is recovering from a finger injury and is not expected to perform at his best during the tournament.”
Lee was briefly sidelined by a blistered finger in his start against the LG Twins in Gwangju on Sept. 9. In his return on Sept. 21 against the Hanwha Eagles in Daejeon, Lee pitched 1.1 innings, allowing five runs (four earned) on two hits, two walks and three strikeouts.
KBO Commissioner Cho Kye-hyun and Asian Games head coach Ryu Jung-il were on hand to watch Lee’s start. After Lee’s poor performance in his last league start before his Asian Games call-up, the decision was made to replace him the next day.
The KBSA Performance Enhancement Committee and the KBO Power Enhancement Committee announced on the afternoon of the 22nd that “Lotte outfielder Yoon Dong-hee has been confirmed as the replacement for KIA’s Lee Yi-ri, who has been confirmed for the Hangzhou Asian Games baseball team.”
Manager Ryu Jung-il spoke to reporters at an official press conference before the first team training session at the Gocheok Dome on the 23rd and said, “Personally, I feel sorry for the replacement of Lee Yi-ri. Lee Yi-ri was the main left-handed pitcher who had to take the starting role in important games. I saw him get a blister on his finger two days ago. The national team trainer kept checking his condition. I also watched Lee start the game against Daejeon on the 21st,” Liu said.
“It depends on how you look at it, but when I saw the state of the blister while pitching and the state of the blister after he couldn’t throw two innings that day, I wondered if he could throw more than 70-80 pitches as a starter with this condition. In the end, I decided to replace him because I didn’t think he could throw more than 80 pitches as a starter,” Liu said.
Lee’s teammate and junior, Choi Ji-min, also expressed her disappointment at not making the team. “I originally wanted to come with (Lee), but it was too bad that I had to come alone,” said Choi Ji-min after the team’s training session on the 23rd. “My older brothers cheered me on, saying, ‘Listen to your brothers and get good results,’ but it’s a shame because if he had come with me, I would have gotten a lot of help from his experience in international competitions. It was a chance for him to get to know his brothers better, but suddenly the situation changed,” he said with a bitter smile.캡틴토토
In 57 games (58.1 innings) this season, Choi has established herself as one of the team’s mainstays with a 6-3 record, three saves, 12 holds, and a 2.16 ERA with 44 strikeouts. In her last 10 appearances, Choi has settled down to a 2-2 record with a 2.08 ERA and eight strikeouts.
“It was my first full-time season, so I felt like my strength dropped in the middle. I feel like I’ve gotten stronger with weight training and rested a little bit, and my pitches have gotten better again. I’ll focus on going out and pitching well in set situations rather than feeling pressure as a lefty. The Taekwondo mark is a big deal, so I’m trying not to get excited. I will definitely return to Gwangju with a gold medal.”