Embattled players receive raisesVeteran outfielder Lee Jong-beom of the Kia Tigers and Kim Kwang-hyun of the SK Wyverns both received pay raises yesterday.
Lee, 40, returns to the Kia Tigers after helping the Gwangju-based club to a Korean Series win last season. Kia announced it re-signed Lee to a one-year deal worth 260 million won ($232,180), a 30 percent increase. Once a dominating player in his prime, Lee produced gaudy numbers in his second season in the KBO. In 1994, Lee batted .393, recorded 194 hits and 84 steals in 124 games. Having played shortstop prior to converting to an outfielder later in his career, Lee remains the only player in the KBO to have hit 30 home runs and steal 60 bases in a season, recording 30 homers and 64 steals in 1997.
Lee signed with the Chunichi Dragons in Japan in 1998 but sustained an injury to his elbow after being hit by a pitch. He returned to Korea in 2001 and has struggled since the 2004 season, which pushed the Tigers’ front office to suggest retirement and offer Lee a coaching position with the team at the end of the 2008 season. Lee returned with renewed determination last season and played a leadership role, posting respectable numbers: a .273 batting average, six home runs and 40 RBI. Lee also produced some key hits in game one of the 2009 Korean Series against the SK Wyverns.
“I want to win another Korean Series title with the Tigers this year,” Lee said. “I would like to complete the upcoming season without any injuries and will try my best to compete for a starting spot in the outfield.”
SK’s Kim Kwang-hyun also restructured his contract with 2009 runner-up Wyverns, the team announced yesterday. The 22-year-old southpaw is the ace of SK’s starting rotation, and despite missing a significant amount of the regular season and the entire post-season due to an injury to his throwing hand, Kim will receive 175 million won in the upcoming season, a 45 million won increase.
Prior to his injury, Kim posted 12 wins and two losses on a 2.80 ERA. Though excused from his two-year mandatory military service after winning a gold medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Kim still had to go through four weeks of basic military training, which he completed last week. Kim departed for Nagoya, Japan yesterday to have his elbow examined and will head to Okinawa to join his teammates for the team’s winter training camp.
“I was able to reorganize my thoughts during the four weeks of basic training. I want to enter the upcoming season in top physical condition,” Kim said.
By Jason Kim [email@example.com]