Kiwoom Heroes’ Lee Jung-hoo (25) is facing a season-ending injury that will require surgery.

Kiwoom announced on the 24th, “Outfielder Lee Jung-hoo was diagnosed with a left ankle extensor ligament injury after undergoing a detailed examination including MRI and x-rays at CM Hospital and Sejong Sports Orthopedics. An extensor ligament injury is a damage to the membrane that wraps around the ankle tendon and requires suture surgery for treatment. Lee will be scheduled for surgery tomorrow (May 25) at Sejong Sports Orthopedic Center after further examination. The rehabilitation period after the surgery is expected to take about three months, which may change depending on the speed of his recovery,” the team said in a statement about Lee’s injury.

Lee won five batting titles last season (batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, on-base percentage, RBI, and most hits) and was named the league MVP. It could be his last season in South Korea, so the expectations were higher than ever.

It didn’t start out well. Through April, Lee had his worst month ever, batting 2-for-19 (87 at-bats) with three home runs, 13 RBIs, and a .678 OPS in 22 games. With Lee’s unimaginable slump, Kiwoom, who were looking to win their first Korean Series title, struggled through April (11-13, 8th best monthly winning percentage).

However, Lee started to come alive in May. In May, his monthly batting average improved to 3-for-5 (32-for-105), and in June, he went 3-for-7 (34-for-91).

In July, his pace peaked. In 13 games, he batted 4-for-5 (20 HRs in 46 at-bats) and showed off his hot bat. He continued his hot streak in the second half, blasting four home runs in his first two games. For the season, he’s batting .329 (105-for-129) with six home runs, 45 RBIs, and an OPS of .863 in 85 games.

However, he suffered an unexpected injury on April 22 against Lotte. In the bottom of the eighth inning, while making a routine play to handle Kim Min-seok’s hit, he was suddenly injured and diagnosed with a season-ending injury. The injury was especially unfortunate because Lee had a good performance that day with three hits.

Kiwoom has not yet given a specific timetable for Lee’s return. This is because further diagnosis is needed and it is unknown how long the recovery period will be after surgery. However, if he takes three months to recover, as is currently expected, it’s unlikely he’ll be able to return this season, let alone compete in the Asian Games. In the worst case scenario, it could affect his chances of reaching the major leagues. Major League Baseball teams have already evaluated Lee, and while it’s widely assumed that he’ll make it to the majors, a long-term injury can certainly be a factor.

It will be interesting to see how Lee’s 2023 season, which was expected to be his best yet, will end up going down in flames due to injury. 안전놀이터

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