Dae-Ho Lee made his intentions clear. He wants to play Major League Baseball. Yes, he's had a decorated career, playing in both Korea and Japan and putting up all-star level numbers. But at age 33, Lee knows there is something from his baseball resume.
PEORIA, Ariz. — Dae-Ho Lee made his intentions clear. He wants to play Major League Baseball. Yes, he’s had a decorated career, playing in both Korea and Japan and putting up All-Star-level numbers. But at age 33, Lee knows there is something missing from his baseball resume.
“It’s a dream come true to come to the major leagues,” he said through an interpreter. “This is the last stop for people who play baseball.”
The Mariners scouted Lee in the playoffs of the Nippon Professional Baseball league in Japan and then at the Premier 12, an international tournament also played in Japan. They came away impressed with his hitting prowess.
Lee then traveled to Arizona in early January and worked out with his former professional Korean team, Lotte, at the Mariners’ facility in Peoria. Seattle scouted him there and signed him to a minor-league contract. Lee has worked on shaving weight off a frame that was listed at 6 feet 5 and 285 pounds last season. Some scouts thought he was more than 300 pounds in Japan. Club sources have said Lee has lost between 20 to 50 pounds.
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Lee said he has lost 15.
“I’ve been playing for the last 14 years, and I think this is the most prepared time of my career,” he said.
Lee believes the 11 years in the Korean Baseball Organization, four in the Japan Central League and his time in the World Baseball Classic and other international tournaments have prepared him for major-league competition.
“All those games I’ve played, they help,” he said.
The Mariners think Lee can hit big-league pitching. Lee definitely thinks he can hit.
“I’m not a really big home-run guy,” he said. “I just tried to put everything in the center (of the bat) and controlling the ball. So when it’s hit good, it’s automatically a home run.”
As for other adjustments, Lee already likes the schedule of spring-training workouts.
“When spring training starts in Korea and Japan, they start early and end late,” he said. “Big-league camp they start early and end by noon. I like that it starts early and ends early.”
Lee isn’t guaranteed a spot on the roster. His minor-league contract could reach $4 million if he makes it to the big leagues. He is battling Jesus Montero, Stefen Romero and Gaby Sanchez for the right-handed portion of the platoon at first base with Adam Lind. There seems to be no favorite in the race. Lee is embracing the challenge.
“Competition always makes me a better player,” he said. “I just want to enjoy it. I just want to make the team.”
And if he doesn’t make the team out of spring training? Would he consider going to Class AAA Tacoma for a month or two? Lee has an opt-out clause in late March.
“I’m thinking past it,” he said. “Why are you asking such negative questions? I don’t even think about it.”