Lee to have season-ending shoulder surgery

May 18th, 2024

SAN FRANCISCO -- The Giants’ worst fears regarding ’s dislocated left shoulder were confirmed on Friday, when the club announced that its rookie center fielder will undergo season-ending surgery to repair a torn labrum.

President of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi said the procedure will be scheduled in the next two to three weeks and entail a six-month rehabilitation process, which should get Lee back to full strength by January. It’ll be the second left shoulder repair for Lee, who underwent a similar surgery in his native Korea in 2018.

“It’s not how I thought about ending my rookie season this year,” Lee said Friday via interpreter Justin Han. “But from all the baseball career I’ve had, this could be one of the most disappointing seasons I’ve had. For now, I’m just trying to think about it more optimistically and trying to think about not the past, but the future.”

Lee, 25, batted .262 with a .641 OPS and two home runs over 37 games with the Giants before injuring his shoulder on a collision with the center-field wall on Sunday. Lee knew he had dislocated his shoulder as soon as he hit the fence, with an MRI exam later revealing structural damage in the joint. He traveled to Los Angeles on Thursday to seek a second opinion from Dr. Neal ElAttrache, who recommended surgery due to Lee’s age and previous injury history.

“It’s a real bummer,” Zaidi said Friday. “It felt like he really hit the ground running this season. We saw a lot of really good things and felt like it was just going to continue to get better. Beyond the excitement he created, it seemed like he was becoming kind of more and more important to our team’s success, both offensively and defensively with what he did in center field. It is really disappointing. We’re expecting a full recovery and know he’s going to work hard and come back strong in 2025. As we’ve already seen, it’s created some opportunity for some of our other young players. That’s the silver lining.”

With Lee out for the rest of the year, the Giants are expected to give Luis Matos a chance to run with the everyday job in center field. Matos, 22, has looked rough at times playing center, but he also robbed the Dodgers’ Teoscar Hernández of a home run on Wednesday, giving the Giants confidence that he’ll be able to develop into a capable defender at the spot.

Still, Lee’s injury will leave the Giants without a dynamic player who had been the centerpiece of their offseason after signing a six-year, $113 million contract in December. The Giants knew there would be a bit of a learning curve as he made the jump from the KBO to the Majors, but they believed that his elite bat-to-ball skills would enable him to make a quick transition and develop into a force at the top of San Francisco’s lineup this year.

“From day one of Spring Training, he never looked out of place,” Zaidi said. “He looked like he belonged as a good big leaguer. Seeing guys come from other leagues internationally, even guys who ascended to All-Star status here, they don’t always hit the ground running right when they start. He started off way ahead of some other really good players that I’ve seen come over. I think that was the most impressive thing.”

Lee, who also crashed into the outfield wall while attempting to chase down fly balls in San Diego and Boston, said he could consider taking a more cautious approach on defense in the future, though he added that he prides himself on putting “100 percent effort on any play.” He isn’t sure if he’ll spend the rest of the season rehabbing in San Francisco or some other locale, but he’s already counting down the days to when he can return to play for the Giants.

“Mentally, I could say that a month and a half playing here in the Major Leagues was the happiest moments in my baseball career,” Lee said. “I’ll never forget the time here that I have spent this season. I’ll keep it in my heart, and for next season, I’ll try to play better with that experience that I have. Baseball is something I really love. I just really want to come back with a strong mind.”