Lee Jung-hoo faces ‘post-surgery season OUT’ possibility

Lee Jung-hoo’s (San Francisco Giants) shoulder condition is the center of attention for Korean-American baseball fans. In a worst-case scenario, he could be out for the season.

Lee started at first base and center field in the 2024 Major League Baseball home game against the Cincinnati Reds at Oracle Park in San Francisco, California, on July 13 (KST). However, he was injured while playing outfield defense in the top of the first inning and was replaced without completing a single at-bat.

Speaking to local media after the game, San Francisco manager Bob Melvin said of Lee’s shoulder, “Not great. We’ll have to get an MRI tomorrow (May 14), but it’s not great,” he said.

In the top of the first inning, with the bases loaded and San Francisco tied 0-0, Lee jumped to catch a potential home run by Cincinnati batter Jamer Candelario. However, he was unable to make the catch and collapsed after hitting the fence hard.

Lee complained of shoulder pain and was unable to continue playing. San Francisco immediately replaced Lee with Tyler Fitzgerald to protect the player.

Melvin described Lee’s shoulder as “separated”. However, a San Francisco team official has clarified that it is a “dislocated” shoulder, raising the possibility that it is not a simple injury.

Lee will have to undergo an MRI to determine the exact status of his left shoulder. After being hit in the left instep by a foul ball against the Colorado Rockies on April 9, which kept him out of action for three days, he suffered a worse injury upon his return.

“Lee appeared to be immobilizing his left arm as he was being helped off the field by San Francisco athletic trainer Dave Groshner,” MLB.com, the official website of Major League Baseball, reported.

Lee had previously struggled with a left shoulder injury during his time with the KBO’s Kiwoom Heroes (2017-2023). In his second year, he was diagnosed with a torn labrum in his left shoulder on June 19, 2018, against the Jamsil Doosan Bears. The injury occurred during a head-first slide while running the bases and kept him out of the first team for a month.

Lee then suffered another left shoulder injury during the postseason in November 2018. In the second game of the semifinals against the Hanwha Eagles, Lee injured his left shoulder while attempting to make a diving catch while playing outfield defense.

Lee eventually underwent anterior labral suture surgery on his left shoulder on November 7, 2018. Despite Lee’s absence, Kiwoom swept the Hanwha Eagles 3-1 in the semifinals to advance to the playoffs, but couldn’t get past the SK Wyverns (now SSG Landers). They lost two out of three games and fell short of advancing to the Korean Series.

After his surgery in November 2018, Lee was expected to require about six months of rehabilitation. Kiwoom initially set a return date of May 2019, but Lee’s recovery was faster than expected.

Lee shortened his rehabilitation period by a whopping two months. He made a successful comeback in time for the start of the regular 메이저사이트 season in March 2019, and then went on to lead Kiwoom to the Korean Series with a blistering bat.

Lee was one of the best hitters in the KBO from 2019 to 2022 without any major injuries. At the start of the second half of the 2023 season, his last in South Korea, he underwent surgery to repair the Shin-Seon-Ji Ligament, a membrane that wraps around the tendons in his left ankle, but that didn’t stop him from reaching the major leagues.

Lee made a quick recovery and played one at-bat in the Gocheok Sky Dome against the Samsung Lions on Oct. 10 last year. Although it was more of a farewell to the Kiwoom fans, he showed off his superhuman resilience once again.

However, Lee’s latest injury is a concern because it involves his left shoulder, which he had surgery on six years ago. If the MRI confirms the need for surgery, he could miss the rest of the regular season.

If it’s a “dislocation,” as the San Francisco team calls it, it’s a serious injury, with the arm bone coming out of the left shoulder joint. If the injury isn’t too severe, he could return with a few weeks of rest and rehabilitation without surgery. On the other hand, a rotator cuff injury should be suspected.

In the opening 36 games of the 2024 Major League Baseball regular season, Lee was batting .262 with 38 hits in 145 at-bats, two home runs, eight RBIs, two doubles, and a .641 OPS (on-base plus slugging percentage).

Lee has been especially hot at the plate, with a six-game hitting streak that began on April 4 against the Philadelphia Phillies. In terms of his May numbers alone, he’s batting .270 with 10 home runs and one RBI in 37 at-bats. Considering he’s in his rookie season in the big leagues, that’s a pretty good showing.

Even in the KBO, Lee’s bat has been particularly hot in May. His body seemed to warm up as he played more games than it did in the early part of the regular season. His May numbers in South Korea were his best in 161 games, with 220 hits in 615 at-bats and a .358 batting average.

However, Lee has hit a reef of injuries that could keep him off the field for some time. The loss of Lee is a devastating blow for San Francisco, as he was considered the centerpiece of their 2024 season.

San Francisco is currently in the “injury ward. Outfielder Michael Conforto has a strained posterior right thigh muscle, catcher Patrick Bailey has a viral illness, outfielder Jorge Soler has a sprained right shoulder, catcher Tom Murphy has a sprained left knee, infielder Nick Ahmed has a sprained left wrist, and outfielder Austin Slater has a concussion. This is the latest injury to derail their season.

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