스포츠토토KIA Tigers pitcher Lee Yi-ri received a shocking roster change a day before his Asian Games call-up. The controversial decision was made even more controversial by the fact that both the KIA team and the player’s representatives said there was nothing wrong with the blister on his finger, which the KBO ostensibly claimed. Lee even received a clean bill of health on the day of his substitution.
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, but we have determined that he will not be able to perform at his best during the tournament.”
“The KBSA Performance Enhancement Committee, the KBO Power Enhancement Committee, manager Ryu Jung-il and the national team coaching staff have decided to confirm the replacement after further discussions.”
KIA pitcher Lee Yi-ri received a shocking roster change a day before his Asian Games call-up. Photo by Kim Young-koo
Lee Yi-ri pitches during a practice game for the 2023 WBC Team at Gocheok Dome. Photo by Chun Jeong-hwan
Lee was briefly sidelined after suffering a blistered finger in his start against the LG Twins in Gwangju on Sept. 9. After recovering, Lee pitched 1.1 innings against the Daejeon Hanwha Eagles on Oct. 21, allowing five runs (four earned) on two hits with two walks and three strikeouts.
KBO Commissioner Cho Kye-hyun and Asian Games head coach Ryu Joong-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.
“We have confirmed Lotte outfielder Yoon Dong-hee as the replacement for KIA’s Lee Yi-ri, who has been confirmed for the Hangzhou Asian Games baseball team,” the KBSA Performance Enhancement Committee and the KBO Power Enhancement Committee said on the afternoon of the 22nd.
“The national team coaching staff, the Power Enhancement Committee, and the Performance Improvement Committee decided that it was necessary to reinforce a professional outfielder and right-handed hitter, and after discussions, we decided to select Yoon Dong-hee.”
The decision to replace Lee and Yoon was made in a day’s time, on the eve of the national team call-up. The decision to replace Lee was met with questions from some quarters. Even though Lee had recovered from a blistered finger, the KBO cited the finger injury and his best performance to make the decision to change the roster a day before the call-up.
The KIA team is also extremely tight-lipped about the KBO’s decision to replace Lee. However, KIA said, “We believe that there is no problem with Lee’s finger condition. We plan to prepare him for his next start as normal,” the club said, indicating that there is nothing wrong with Lee.
Lee Yi-ri, who wore the Korean flag for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic team and the 2023 WBC team, was also shocked to be replaced on the eve of the call-up. According to MK Sports, Lee underwent a medical examination with the club on the 22nd, the same day he was notified of his replacement. As a result, he reportedly received a medical report stating that there was nothing wrong with his finger blisters and that he could pitch normally. It will be interesting to see how Lee will respond to the report in the future.
Meanwhile, the KBO has no problem with the decision to replace Lee. A KBO official said, “Regarding Lee Yi-ri’s physical condition, our officials personally checked him on the field after the game yesterday (Nov. 21) and determined that he needed to be replaced. We do not intend to deny the judgment of the KIA team. However, we have concluded that Lee Yi-ri is unable to perform at his best, according to our officials who personally checked him.”
The KBO official went on to say, “We plan to submit a medical report that Lee Yi-ri received when he suffered a finger blister injury. We have photographic evidence to prove it, and we think we can get enough additional medical reports. I don’t think there is a problem with the replacement decision process. We will also send a letter to the Korean Olympic Committee and the Hangzhou Asian Games Organizing Committee regarding the substitution. We have until September 30 to make the final decision.”
As such, the player, the club, and the KBO are all in the spotlight over the status of Lee’s blistered finger. The Asian Games team will convene on Sept. 23 and begin training immediately afterward. The controversy over Lee’s replacement is expected to grow until Sept. 30, when the Asian Games roster is finalized.