All four Korean major leaguers see action on opening weekend

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All four Korean major leaguers see action on opening weekend

 Choi Ji-man of the Tampa Bay Rays, left, celebrates after hitting a solo home run during a game against the Toronto Blue Jays on Sunday. Kim Kwang-hyun of the St. Louis Cardinals throws a pitch during a game against the Pittsburgh Pirates on Friday, local time. [REUTERS/YONHAP, AP/YONHAP]

Choi Ji-man of the Tampa Bay Rays, left, celebrates after hitting a solo home run during a game against the Toronto Blue Jays on Sunday. Kim Kwang-hyun of the St. Louis Cardinals throws a pitch during a game against the Pittsburgh Pirates on Friday, local time. [REUTERS/YONHAP, AP/YONHAP]

 
The MLB's shortened 60-game season finally kicked off over the weekend, with all four Korean major leaguers making an appearance in the opening series.

 

Ryu Hyun-Jin of the Toronto Blue Jays appeared as starter in the opening game on July 24 against the Tampa Bay Rays. Appearing as starter in an opening game for the second straight season, Ryu finally made his long-awaited debut in a Blue Jays jersey.
 
Unlike last year, when Ryu picked up a win in the opening game for the Dodgers, this season Ryu picked up a no decision for the Blue Jays. Ryu tossed four and two-thirds of an inning, and throughout the game he gave up three runs and four hits while striking out four. Although the Blue Jays were winning when Ryu was on the mound, as he left before fulfilling a full five innings he ended up picking up a no decision.
 
“Honestly, I think I was the weak link in today’s game,” Ryu was quoted as saying on MLB.com. “As long as I pick up my pace, if everyone else does what they did today, I think we’ll be fine moving forward.”
 
Looking at the statistics after his first appearance for the Blue Jays, Ryu now has a 5.79 ERA with four hits and three earned runs while striking out four after one game.
 
Despite the no decision, the Blue Jays ended up winning the opener, defeating the Rays 6-4.
 
During this game, Choi Ji-man made his first appearance of the season as a pinch-hitter and a first baseman. As he was substituted into the game in the later innings, he didn't face Ryu.
 
The Blue Jays may have won the opening game against the Rays, but it was the Rays that took the series as they defeated the Blue Jays 4-1 on Saturday and 6-5 on Sunday, local time. Although Choi made his first appearance of the season as a pinch-hitter, in the next two games he was assigned to the batting order and first base for the Rays. Throughout the three games, Choi has a batting average of 0.286 with one home run, three walks and three RBIs.
 
Choi hit his first home run of the season on Sunday at the bottom of the sixth inning to help the Rays pick up a thrilling 6-5 victory against the Blue Jays. 
 
His home run came as a surprise as he batted right-handed. Although Choi throws with his right hand, when it comes to batting, he tends to favor his left side. Choi gained some experience playing as a switch hitter in the minors, and has apparently now decided to bring that skill to the big leagues.
 

“I wasn’t really stressing about it too much,” Choi was quoted as saying in the Tampa Bay Times. “I didn’t want to tell [Rays manager] Charlie [Montoyo] about our little secret. I wanted to keep that to myself. […] [On Sunday] I just decided. I felt pretty good, so why not?”
 
Choi isn't sure how often he'll switch it up, telling the Times he's not sure about becoming a switch hitter.
 
Over in Missouri, St. Louis Cardinals’ pitcher Kim Kwang-hyun finally made his dream come true by making his debut in the MLB, in the Cardinals’ opening game against the Pittsburgh Pirates.
 
Kim appeared on the Cardinals' mound as the third pitcher of the game and throughout one inning he gave up two hits and one run to pick up his first-ever save in the major league. Although Kim managed to pick up a save, it wasn't the best start to his season in terms of numbers as he gave up two runs in one inning, starting his season with a 9.00 ERA.
 
Despite the two runs, the Cardinals still managed to pick up a win in the open game with a 5-4 victory against the Pirates. Following the opening game, the Cardinals picked up another big 9-1 victory but weren't able to sweep the series as the Pirates won Sunday's game 5-1.
 
Last but not least, Choo Shin-soo of the Texas Rangers, the oldest Korean major leaguer, appeared in all three games over the weekend. During the opening game against the Colorado Rockies, Choo returned to familiar territory as designated hitter and lead off in the batting lineup, helping his team to pick up a 1-0 victory against the Rockies.
 
Then in the second game of the series Choo once again appeared as a lead off hitter and was assigned as left fielder, but the Rangers lost to the Rockies 3-2. The Rangers suffered another 5-2 loss in the last game of the opening series and Choo appeared as a pinch-hitter.
 
Looking at Choo’s statistic for the 2020 season, he isn't off to the best start as he has a 0.111 batting average with one hit and one RBI.
 
BY KANG YOO-RIM   [kang.yoorim@joongang.co.kr]
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