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Veteran outfielder suspended indefinitely by club after demanding trade

Sports 16:38 March 22, 2019

SEOUL, March 22 (Yonhap) -- A veteran outfielder was suspended indefinitely by his Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) club on Friday following a controversial trade demand.

The Hanwha Eagles said Lee Yong-kyu, 33, will be banned from all baseball activities until further notice. It's the toughest penalty a club can mete out on its own players.

As a free agent, Lee re-signed with the Eagles for two years, with an option for a third season, on Jan. 30. But on March 11, a day before the start of the preseason, and again four days later, Lee asked to be traded.

In this file photo from Sept. 19, 2018, Lee Yong-kyu of the Hanwha Eagles reacts to a strikeout against the NC Dinos in the top of the sixth inning of a Korea Baseball Organization regular season game at Masan Baseball Stadium in Changwon, 400 kilometers southeast of Seoul. (Yonhap)

The Eagles refused to grant Lee his wish, and he was a no-show for practice on March 16. The club later assigned him to its development squad for rookies and young prospects, a tier below its Futures League minor league team.

In announcing their decision, the Eagles said the timing of Lee's trade demand, coming just days before the start of the regular season, and his subsequent action disrupted the team's order and discipline and caused grave damage to the integrity of professional baseball as a whole.

The exact reasons behind Lee's demand aren't known, though the player has denied it has anything to do with his place in the batting order or position in the field.

During spring training, manager Han Yong-duk said he'd planned to move Lee from center field to left field and put him in the No. 9 spot.

A pesky slap hitter with speed, Lee has spent the majority of his career at the top of the order. In 2018, Lee had 337 out of 491 at-bats as the leadoff man and 141 more as the No. 2 hitter. He batted .293 with a team-high 30 steals and 82 runs scored.

In 15 seasons so far, Lee has been a lifetime .302 hitter and has stolen 346 bases, putting him ninth on the all-time list and fourth among active players.

jeeho@yna.co.kr
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