Desperate for an out, the pitcher throws to first base… and in that moment, the ace takes charge.

Once a pitcher throws the ball, he is a beast with his own area of responsibility, which is defense. The difference between a pitcher with good defense and a pitcher without it can be quite significant on the field. The general consensus is that “a pitcher who can’t play basic defense can’t make it to S”.

This is why pitchers continue to work on their defense in camp and in the middle of the season. However, this doesn’t include hitting. While baseball players are more accustomed to this type of play, pitchers are not. If you do it incorrectly, you can easily injure yourself, and if you do it incorrectly, you can do a lot of damage to your throwing shoulder or wrist. It’s up to the coaching staff to discourage this kind of defense.

Lee Yi-ri (21), KIA’s next-generation ace, was one such player. However, in a game against Doosan in Jamsil on October 10, he made a play that caught my eye. It was a dizzying moment that could have led to an injury.

It was the fourth inning, tied 3-3. Lee was hit by a single to right-center by Kim Jae-ho and a single to left by Kang Seung-ho, putting runners on first and second. Jung Soo-bin came to the plate. Jung’s hard hit ball rolled between the first baseman and the pitcher. Considering Soo-bin’s quick feet, it was too late for the second baseman to catch, and the first baseman had to stay on base.

The pitcher, Lee, realized this. With his glove in his right hand, Lee didn’t have much time to react, so he automatically threw the ball away during the glove toss. The camera captured the moment when the batter, Jung Soo-bin, and the pitcher, Lee Yi-ri, flew side by side. Lee didn’t intend to make the play, but it was still a split-second call.

The initial call was safe, but Kia overturned the call after video review. If Lee hadn’t flipped and made the glove toss, it would have been 100% safe. What would have been the first out of the inning became second and third with Lee’s throw.

There was an emergency on the Kia bench because he had just flown out. They were worried that it would affect his pitching. It didn’t cross the line, but pitching coach Jung Myung-won was anxiously monitoring Lee’s condition. But after a few practice pitches, Lee gave the all-clear sign and struck out the next batter, Kim Dae-hyun, to end the inning.

Lee hadn’t pitched well in the previous inning, the third. Up until the second inning, he had pitched almost flawlessly. He didn’t even have any “balls. Two perfect innings. However, in the third inning with a 2-0 lead, he gave up a single to Kim Jae-ho, a walk to Kang Seung-ho, and an infield single to Jung Soo-bin to load the bases. One out later, he gave up back-to-back pinch-hit singles to Lee Yoo-chan and Yang Yang-ji. It looked like the type of game where Lee would break down.

I wasn’t trying to avoid it. I was trying to throw strikes. Both pitcher and catcher were on the same page. But the pitch didn’t come out right, as if it was too hard. The ball was flying, and the Doosan hitters didn’t have to bat. Eventually, with two on and one out, Yang gave up a huge sacrifice fly to center field. Lee was able to get out of a jam in the fourth inning with a strikeout.

In fact, Lee was probably thinking, “I need to throw as many innings as possible” before the game. The bullpen was exhausted from back-to-back close games. Choi Ji-min, a key resource, had the day off, and while she would have been disappointed with her performance in the third inning, she felt a sense of responsibility to close out the game in the fourth. “I thought it was a game-winning situation,” Lee said after the game. That determination translated into a glove toss, and Lee closed out the fifth and sixth innings, pitching six innings of three-run ball.

Lee is a lefty with one of the best pitches in the league. He has a lot of potential to develop into an ace, which is exactly what KIA needs. Ace is a label that comes with consistently meeting fan and club expectations. For example, on a day when the bullpen is exhausted, it’s not about pitching a perfect game, it’s about pitching as many innings as possible with as few runs as possible. Lee’s pitching this season hasn’t quite gotten to that point yet, but his single-handed glove toss today shows that he’s getting there. 메이저놀이터

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