|Cincinnati Reds outfielder Choo Shin-soo takes batting practice in Goodyear, Arizona, Saturday. (Yonhap News)|
GOODYEAR, Arizona (Yonhap News) ― Having joined a new team in Major League Baseball during the offseason, South Korean outfielder Choo Shin-soo said he will not change his style of play regardless of his position on the field or in the batting order.
Choo was traded from the Cleveland Indians to the Cincinnati Reds in December. The Reds, the reigning National League Central Division champs, acquired the 30-year-old to bolster their offense at the top of the lineup and have him patrol center field.
While with the Indians last year, Choo batted in five different spots in the lineup, mostly in leadoff and the three hole.
With the Reds, he’s expected to be the primary leadoff man.
Defensively, Choo played 153 out of his 155 games in right field, while he appeared in the other two as a pinch hitter and didn’t take the field.
Choo played only 10 games as a center fielder in Cleveland and none since 2009.
Speaking to South Korean reporters during the Reds’ spring training in Arizona, Choo said he will stick to his own game plan.
“I am going to play the way I’ve played all along since my Cleveland days,” he said.
“If I get a good pitch, I will take an aggressive swing even on the first pitch. If I get a bad pitch, I will try to be more patient. Whether I bat leadoff or in the heart of the lineup, I will keep doing things my way. I am confident in my abilities.”
In 99 games as the Indians’ leadoff man last year, Choo had 12 homers and 13 steals along with a .310 batting average and a .389 on-base percentage. For the season, Choo hit 16 homers and drove in 67 runs, along with 21 steals, a .283 batting average and a .373 on-base percentage.
The Reds had seven different players start a game in the leadoff spot, but they combined for only a .208 batting average and a .254 on-base percentage.
Choo will experience an even bigger shift in the field, as he gets ready to move from right field to center field.
Choo, a former standout pitcher in high school, has been known for his strong throwing arm, and was one of three finalists for the American League Gold Glove award in right field last year.
Choo insisted he’s ready for the challenge.
“It’s not going to be easy to change defensive positions at my age,” he said.
“I know there has been some pessimistic talk, but that has only fueled my motivation. My teammate Jay Bruce (the team’s incumbent right fielder) has told me not to think too much, because you’d only get nervous.”
Choo recently signed a one-year deal worth $7.37 million, up from $4.9 million he earned in 2012. Choo will become a free agent after this season, but he said he won’t look too far down the road and will instead focus on the upcoming season.
“If you let yourself look too far ahead, then you will become too anxious and won’t be able to play the way you’re capable of playing,” he said.