Hak-Ju Lee lit up the International League through his first 15 games in 2013, but a collision while turning a double play led to season-ending knee surgery. This year, in the 15th game of his second stint with Triple-A Durham, he presented a reminder of why he's the Rays' top prospect.
Lee collected three hits and drove in his first three runs of the season on Saturday night, helping the Bulls roll to a 9-2 victory over Scranton/Wilkes-Barre at PNC Field.
"He's healthy right now, which is the main thing," Bulls manager Charlie Montoyo told The (Raleigh) News & Observer last week. "And now he's got to catch up with the baseball. All of these guys have been playing the whole time, but he hasn't.
"I just know that he's got to catch up. So that's what we have to take it easy with him until he gets to full strength and playing every day."
Recovered from surgery to repair torn knee ligaments, the 23-year-old shortstop played nine games with the big league club in Spring Training before he was reassigned to Minor League camp. He suffered a strained calf, however, and did not make his season debut until April 23.
Against the RailRiders, MLB.com's No. 77 overall prospect extended his hitting streak to four games with a second-inning single. He lined a two-run double in the third and plated another run with a base hit in the fifth.
During his brief 2013 campaign, the left-handed hitter from Korea slugged his way to a .422/.536/.600 slash line and stole six bases. Saturday's game bumped his average up to .214 with two thefts in three tries.
"Right now, he's running fine, which is good news," Montoyo told the newspaper. "Because that's one of the aspects of his game, that he's fast. That makes him even better. So if he loses that, he's not the same."
While he's gotten off to a slow start at the plate, MLB.com's ninth-ranked shortstop prospect has committed two errors in 47 chances.
"I just want to stay healthy this year because I didn't play a [whole] year last year," Lee told News & Observer. "The first thing, I just want to [be] healthy. And then the second thing ... [I'll] try to help the team score runs, with defense and good baserunning."
Jerry Sands also collected three RBIs for the Bulls, while Matt Andriese (2-3) yielded a run on three hits over five innings for his first wins since April 10.
Scranton/Wilkes-Barre starter Shane Greene (0-1) surrendered six runs -- three earned -- on eight hits and four walks with two strikeouts in two innings.