Heroes’ Lee returns, just in time for playoff push
Having joined the Heroes as a swingman last season, Lee quickly earned his spot in the club’s starting rotation this year. He got off to a great start by picking up two wins in six starts with a 3.65 ERA until May.
But he wasn’t able to keep that strong performance up throughout the season. Lee showed inconsistency in May and June but once he headed into July, his struggles began to intensify. Due to this, he was eventually sent down to the Futures League.
After a brief spell in the second-tier league, Lee was called back up. He again failed to perform and was sent down, before finally making a return to the top in the last week of August.
Although Lee picked up a loss against the Hanwha Eagles on Aug. 28, he tossed six scoreless innings in his next two starts - against the Doosan Bears and the Kia Tigers. Then, most recently on Saturday, Lee had another strong start, giving up two runs throughout six innings, recording a 1.50 ERA, against the KT Wiz.
With three strong starts since he re-joined the Heroes, Lee has now picked up eight wins and five losses with a 4.48 ERA for the season.
Below are edited excerpts from an Ilgan Sports interview with Lee.
Q. What’s the key to your successful comeback?
A. Regarding to my swing form, I normally talk about it with [Choi] Won-tae as to how I can get better. I also go to the power analysis team and check with them if there are any changes to my pitching form compared to the beginning of the season. My confidence level did go down but when I went down to the Futures League recently, our manager told me to throw my pitches. I was losing confidence, but once that was gone I started to throw well.
Is there a difference in your pitching form?
No, there aren’t any big differences.
Did the time you spent in the Futures League end up helping?
As I got to take some time to think [about my performance], I started to feel a little more relaxed. That helped me find my balance and bring back my condition.
You struggled in July and August. What really happened?
I was absent for quite a long time due to cellulitis. I lacked both mental and physical strength [at the time]. Now, I’ve fully recovered.
Although the season hasn’t ended, you’ve already pitched in a lot more innings compared to last year. How are you feeling physically?
As we headed into the second half of the season, I started to think that it’s definitely more difficult to play full time as a starting pitcher. I think I’m learning how to maintain my physical level as I play. I don’t have any major problems, yet.
Did you ever expect to pick up eight wins this season?
I never expected it. I’m just thankful for the opportunity our manager gave me. When I prepared for the season, I took care of my control. I started the season strong but struggled a little bit due to an injury, but as I regain my confidence, I think my control is coming along.
Since you’ve been strong against the Doosan Bears, the team’s manager Kim Tae-hyung said he’s bothered by you. How do you feel?
I’m thankful because it means that his evaluation of me is good. I think I need to work harder.
You started in the bullpen and earned your spot in the starting rotation. Do you feel more comfortable as a starter?
Whether it’s as a starter or a middle reliever, there’s no such position as a comfortable spot. They’re both difficult.
Out of 100, what score would you give yourself?
Since I’ve learned a lot, I would say about 50. There is still a lot for me to work on. Since there aren’t that many games left in the season, I don’t think picking up 10 wins will be easy this year, but I’ll have to try my best until the end.
What’s your goal for the remaining season?
I want to consistently maintain my statistics in the remaining games. I’ll have to do that to help my team compete for the runner-up spot in the [regular season] standing. I hope my team gets closer to a runner-up spot as I throw my pitches.
BY BAE JUNG-HYUNE [email@example.com]