Hye-cheon Lee arrives to bolster Swallows' rotation


Lee with Takada (image from TYS official website)

Yakult’s front office announced the signing of Korean lefty Hye-cheon Lee on Thursday.  Lee signed a two year deal worth some $800,000.

The pitcher, signed from the KBO’s Doosan Bears has a 53W-40L-6S record in his 559 games in Korea, and sports an ERA of 4.16 in his 10 years as a pro.  Like the previous Korean aquisition Chang-yong Lim,  Lee saw limited playing time in the latter part of his KBO career due to injury, as he missed the entire 2007 season.

The 29 year old, who will wear number 49, says he is aiming for 10 wins in 2009 for Yakult, and boy could we do with those.  He will try to get those wins with his 150+kph fastball along with his pair of sliders.

Hopefully his success for Tokyo will follow that of his compatriot Lim, rather than the last Doosan doosan_bears_logo1acquisition Daniel Rios who was released by the team after a positive drugs test after mere months with the organisation in 2008.

Swallows’ manager Takada was quoted as saying: “He can start or pitch in relief but we would like him to be one of our starting pitchers,”

So that means we’ll probably see Lee out in leftfield for the season opener then………….(Takada, bless him).

About David Watkins

David is a baseball bothering Brummie who spends a fair portion of his life fretting over the Tokyo Swallows and the WORLD'S GREATEST FOOTBALL TEAM, Aston Villa. He completes the quartet of abusive sporting relationships by being a die hard New York Knicks and Mets fan. You can find him on twitter: @yakulto

  • In addition, I seem to remember reading that both the Giants and Marines were interested in Lee, with the Chiba outfit making an offer to him that he rejected.

  • Allow me to get all nitpicky about something that I’m sure nobody else cares about:

    I’m curious as to who decided on the romanization of this pitcher’s name (from ??? to Lee Hei-chun). If it was the player himself, then fine. But if it was the Swallows or the media, then I’m a little confused because, well, it’s wrong.

    To be fair, his family name, Lee, is recoded in the standard manner (even though the pronunciation of his name is actually like the letter ‘E’), but his two-character given name is a little messed up.

    His first name should be transcribed as Hye-cheon, but the first syllable has been changed to ‘Hei’ and the second to ‘Chun’. Of the two, the first is the more creative.

    The effect is akin to romanizing ?? (shinjuku) as “sheenjookoo”. A few people might benefit from the simplification, but others would simply be confused. Case in point: ‘Hei’ actually suggests, according to standard practice, two distinct syllabic blocks instead of one. However, there are no words in the Korean language that begin this way, much less a given name, because there is another vowel that more efficiently represent this sound.

    And when attached to the ‘h’-sounding consonant, the pronunciation is routinely romanized as ‘Hye’.

    It’s basically just not how these things are done, and it’s not as small a tweaking as the Mariner’s Kenji Jojima adding an ‘h’ to his name to help North Americans pronounce it correctly.

    Which leads us to the observation that the people around here won’t/can’t pronounce his name correctly.

    The Japanese language lacks a vowel sound approximating the ‘u’ in Chun (similar to the ‘u’ in fun), so they’ve been forced to approximate it as ????(Chon, whose ‘o’ is kind of like the one in bone) in the katakana version.

    I guess the reason why I’m raising this issue is because I don’t really understand the rationale behind messing with things when it won’t really do any good. I’m also now confused about how to write his name since there are at least three different versions floating around now (Hei-chun being the most recent transmutation).

    I’m thinking that it makes more sense to stick with the standard version–Lee Hye-cheon.

    Whatever. Welcome to the team, Mr. Lee!

  • I don’t know if this is true in Lee’s case, but I often get the impression that romanization of Korean and Chinese players’ names are attempts at reconstruction from katakana. At least Koreans get katakana, whereas as some (if not most) Chinese get a Japanese reading of the kanji used in their names, which is really confusing.

    I’m with you , Chris. If there’s a standard or widely accepted system of romanization, it should be used. As far as Japanese names go, adding “h” after a long “o” doesn’t bother me, but turning, for example, ?? into “Syunsuke” isn’t helpful. (My all-time favorite is the door of SMBC’s Nishi-Shinjuku branch, which identified it as the “Nishisyindzhyuku” branch. I can see how “dzhyu” would make the sound, but it’s absurd.)

  • No way!? That looks… Polish or something 😛

    Anyways, Japanese names are often read using their kanjis’ Chinese readings in China, this just a common thing when languages share alphabets (European names are only rarely pronounced correctly in English, usually only if the name is really famous).

    But the romanization of Korean and Chinese names should be what’s on their passports, but I guess things can’t be that simple..

  • This has nothing to do with your post, I just wondered if you guys went to Yakult Fanfest and saw the most disturbing thing ever.

  • Hi Deanna. No, I (and I think we all) didn’t go to this year’s event.

    And that is disturbing, Satoh’s got quite the belly……….

  • Ah, the obligatory cross-dressing. That is a mite disturbing, but I’d take it over DAD’S any day. Start every home game by making a different pitcher (on his day off, of course), dress up in a mini-skirt and lip-synch for the crowd. I think that’s a tradition that would draw spectators on its own merits.