Korean batters off to solid start after first weekend of MLB action
Choi Ji-man has started the 2022 season on good form, putting in a solid performance at the plate as the Tampa Bay Rays immediately return to the top of the American League East.
After four games, the Korean slugger is batting .444 with four hits, two runs and an RBI as of press time Tuesday. His on-base percentage is even higher, at .583 after taking three walks so far this season.
Choi had a particularly strong outing on Sunday, when he hit a single and a double to drive home the Rays seventh run in an 8-0 win over the Baltimore Orioles. On Monday he returned for a quieter two singles and an RBI as the Rays dropped their first game of the season to the Oakland Athletics, 13-2.
Choi's optimistic start to the 2022 season is markedly different from last year, when he missed the opening weeks of the season after undergoing arthroscopic surgery on his right knee.
That injury kept him out of action until mid-May, when the veteran slugger burst back into the lineup, batting over .500 for his first four games. That form gradually sloped off over the following months and a string of injuries furthered muddied the waters, leaving Choi entering the playoffs with a .229 batting average, 59 hits, 36 runs, 45 RBIs and 11 home runs for the regular season.
At 30, Choi should still have some good years left in his batting arm. If he is able to avoid the worst of the injury woes this year, Choi should be able to throw up some good numbers on the season. His best season to date was in 2019 — the only year he's appeared in more than 85 big league games — when he finished with a .261 batting average, 107 hits, 54 runs, 64 RBIs and 19 home runs.
Over in the National League, Kim Ha-seong has got off to a reasonably good start in his second season with the San Diego Padres.
While Kim is yet to make an impact at the plate, the sophomore infielder has had the opportunity to show off his base running skills. Kim has crossed the plate four times in just two appearances with the swinging friars so far this season, with a triple, two walks, a stolen base and a hit-by-pitch combining for some very productive at bats.
Kim picked up an early walk in the third inning of the Padres opening game against the Arizona Diamondbacks, stealing second and later coming home for the team's very first run of the 2022 season. An inning later in the fourth, Kim grounded into a force out, but jumped second on a single to get into scoring position. He later came home as the Padres second run in the 4-2 opening day loss.
Kim sat out the next couple of games but was back in action on Sunday, smashing a lead-off triple in the fourth inning and then scoring on a sac fly. His second run came in the sixth, when he body checked an 88-mile-per-hour sinker to get on base and then came around to score.
As of press time, Kim has a .143 batting average for the season with one hit and four runs and .400 on-base percentage.
Park Hoy-jun, the final Korean batter in the big leagues, has had a quieter start to the season. Park was added to the roster for the Pittsburgh Pirates opening game against the St. Louis Cardinals on Thursday, recording a single in three at bats for a .333 batting average.
BY JIM BULLEY [firstname.lastname@example.org]