SURPRISE, Ariz. (AP) – Shin-Soo Choo acknowledges he will probably feel some pressure getting started on his big contract with the Texas Rangers to be their leadoff hitter.
“I’m human,” Choo said Friday.
Choo, the 31-year-old outfielder who got a $130 million, seven-year free-agent deal from Texas, knows there are expectations for him to set a tone at the top of a remade offense. The Rangers want him to go deep into counts, seeing a lot of pitches like he has done in the past, and get on base ahead of fellow newcomer Prince Fielder and Adrian Beltre.
“The next seven years, starting this year, will be a challenge for me, but I like challenges.,” he said. “I talk to myself, `Choo, you play Shin-Soo Choo style.’ … It’s my goal is to be healthy and play every day and that’s how good things happen.”
Choo style has been getting on base. He has a .288 career average and .389 on-base percentage in 853 major league games for Seattle (2005-06), Cleveland (2006-12) and Cincinnati (2013). Only Mike Trout (564) and Miguel Cabrera (562) have reached base more than last two seasons than Choo (556).
He also has at least 20 homers and 20 stolen bases three times, including last season when he started 150 games in center field and was the primary leadoff hitter for the Reds.
“What’s always impressed me about Choo is the way he goes about his business,” manager Ron Washington said. “His professionalism, his work ethic, his willingness to be there for his teammates, those are the things that are impressive.”
Sitting down with the media for the first time at spring training — he has been around the complex for a while since his offseason home is nearby — Choo said he feels very comfortable with his new teammates.
Choo said he won’t change his approach regardless of where he bats in the lineup — he has batted in all nine spots during his career. But he said he did get better last year with his two-strike approach, choking up on the bat and widening his stance, especially on 3-2 pitches.
He hit .279 on full-count pitches last season up from .191 and .171 the previous two years.
Even with his impressive on-base percentage, Choo has struggled against left-handed pitchers the last two years — more than 100 points lower than against right-handers. He hit .215 off lefties last season, vs. .317 against righters after a .199 to .327 difference in 2012, when he was still in the American League.
“That’s not a mechanics problem. All mental,” he said. “Still I have confidence, still I can hit. … I’m not worried about it. Just things change a little bit and I’ll be fine.”
Asked what part of his game he likes the most, Choo responded that it was that he could do different things at the plate.
“I’m not great power hitter, I’m not great high-batting average hitter, but I can do everything. I can walk, get on base, I can steal,” he said. “A lot of people ask me Choo you have a good contract, how do you feel? But I feel the same. I’m the same person. I do the same routine every day, same approach.”
Notes: An initial MRI on LHP Matt Harrison’s lower back showed no major issues, but the pitcher will travel home Monday to be examined by Dr. Drew Dossett. Harrison made only two starts last season before two operations for a herniated disk in his back. … C Geovany Soto was headed back to Texas on Friday to have his sore Achilles checked out by a specialist. Soto said he could play if this was the regular season, but he and the team want to get it checked now to try to keep it from becoming a bigger issue.
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