(ATTN: UPDATES with new estimated recovery time in 5th para, details in paras 6-9)
BUSAN, June 26 (Yonhap) -- KT Wiz's All-Star outfielder Kang Baek-ho underwent surgery on his right hand Wednesday, a day after hurting it on a piece of metal sticking out at a road stadium.
Kang, the reigning Rookie of the Year in the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO), suffered a deep cut in his right hand after making a catch in foul territory on the right field during Tuesday's game against the Lotte Giants at Sajik Stadium in Busan, 450 kilometers southeast of Seoul.
As his momentum carried him to the fence, Kang put his right, non-glove hand forward to slow himself. But the hand ended up catching the sharp metal piece holding down the safety netting, and Kang immediately turned and went down to his knees in apparent pain.
He called for help and was soon lifted from the game, with blood seeping through a bandage.
The Wiz said Kang has a 5-centimeter cut on his right palm and sustained muscle damage as well. He was reevaluated in Seoul and had successful surgery later Wednesday, and the Wiz said Kang will be sidelined for up to eight weeks.
The Wiz initially announced Kang would be able to return in three to four weeks, but a team official later clarified that the wound would heal in that time frame and it would take an additional four weeks for Kang to return to action.
There was also miscommunication within the club. The Wiz said around 1:30 p.m. that Kang had undergone surgery, when in fact the procedure was delayed by about three hours. Manager Lee Kang-chul said he hadn't been informed about the surgery by the time the club issued the erroneous press release, and that he'd only found about the phantom surgery from news articles.
The Wiz were in seventh place at 33-45-1 (wins-losses-ties), with their game Wednesday in Busan rained out. They're 4.5 games behind the NC Dinos for the fifth and final postseason spot. Kang's injury came at a time when the Wiz are in position to fight for their first playoff appearance.
"Kang Baek-ho is one of the KBO's best hitters," Lee said. "But we won't bring him back until he's completely healthy, even if it means we'll go through some tough stretches in the pennant race."
Kang was the overwhelming winner of the top rookie award last year after leading all freshmen with 29 home runs -- one shy of the all-time rookie record -- and 84 RBIs, while putting up a robust .290/.356/.524 line. He also scored 108 runs.
This year, Kang is batting .339/.418/.490 with eight home runs and 38 RBIs in 78 games. He is fourth in the KBO in batting average and on-base percentage.
The 19-year-old is leading all outfielders in All-Star votes for the Dream Team, which will be made up of players from the Wiz, Giants, SK Wyverns, Samsung Lions and Doosan Bears. Kang was an All-Star reserve last year and was in line to make his first start.
The Giants said they "regret" Kang's injury, and they will immediately address safety issues at Sajik Stadium.
"We'll deliver an apology to Kang Baek-ho, and we wish him a speedy recovery," the Giants said.
Earlier in the day, the Giants' maintenance crew covered up sharp objects at the end of the netting on the first base and third base sides with padding.
S. Korean MLB hopefuls face long waiting game amid uncertainty, mixed reviews
S. Korean IOC members hopeful DMZ meeting will offer breakthrough for sports cooperation
Defending champs in S. Korean baseball threaten to run away with pennant
2 S. Korean clubs eye trip to quarterfinals at AFC Champions League
S. Korea football coach willing to look past statistics when selecting players