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After 701 games, LG’s Lee Dong-hyun has left the mound

Oct 01,2019
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Lee Dong-hyun of the LG Twins greets fans during his retirement ceremony at Jamsil Baseball Stadium in southern Seoul on Sunday. [YONHAP]
Lee Dong-hyun of the LG Twins retired Sunday after throwing a strikeout in his 701st game in the KBO.

Lee originally announced his retirement after a game against the NC Dinos on Aug. 22, when he played his 700th game in the KBO. However, it wasn’t until Sunday, during the Twins’ last Jamsil Derby of the year against the Doosan Bears, that he officially retired.

In front of a sellout crowd, Lee finally made an appearance at the top of the seventh inning, while the Twins were losing 0-3. After Lee struck out Bears’ catcher Park Sei-hyok, it was Park Yong-taik, the oldest Twins player, who got the baseball from the umpire and walked to the mound.

The timing of Lee’s retirement was bittersweet for the Twins and for Lee, as the club earned a spot in the postseason for the first time since 2016. Although it’s a long-awaited achievement, Lee will not play in the playoffs.

“It’s like is a gift for my retirement,” Lee said. “All thanks to our younger players, I feel like I’m having a more honorable retirement. I’m very thankful to them. It would have been great if I got to play with them in the postseason but I’m honored to leave when everyone’s applauding me.”

Normally, when a team changes its pitcher during an inning, the pitching coach or a manager gets a baseball from the umpire and walks up to the mound. The decision to send Park Yong-taik to the mound to officially call an end to Lee’s last outing for the Twins was a fitting finishing point to the long years the two have spent playing together.

Lee made his KBO debut with the Twins in 2001. Although Park is older than Lee, he joined the Twins a year later in 2002 as he turned pro after graduating from Korea University.

The two have played for the Twins for their entire careers.

In 2002, the duo helped the Twins advance to the Korean Series but lost to the Samsung Lions. Despite being only in his second season with the Twins, Lee played a significant role in helping the club as he picked up eight wins, three losses, seven saves and six holds in 78 games with a 2.67 ERA that season.

Throughout Lee’s career, he’s undergone elbow surgeries three times - in 2004, 2006 and in 2007 - and always made it back to the mound. Although elbow surgery can be career-ending for pitchers, Lee came back to the KBO in 2009 and made a successful comeback. Due to the number of surgeries he had to undergo, Lee didn’t get to play in any games from 2005 to 2008.

“I would say my time after the second surgery [in 2006] was the hardest,” Lee said. “As my surgery failed [and I had to get another in 2007], I really thought about quitting. But I met great people during that time and they encouraged me a lot. They motivated me to come this far.

“I was able to get through the hard time because our general manager Cha Myeong-seok, who was a coach at the time, trusted and waited for me.”

After he returned to the mound, Lee had his best year in 2014 with a 2.73 ERA. Throughout the season, Lee picked up five wins, one loss, two saves and 23 holds in 61 games.

Throughout 15 seasons, Lee picked up 53 wins, 47 losses, 41 saves and 113 holds with a 4.06 ERA in 910 and one third of an inning.

BY KANG YOO-RIM AND LEE HYEONG-SEOK [kang.yoorim@joongang.co.kr]