The Tampa Bay Rays defeated the Toronto Blue Jays today to take the first series of the season. The 10th-inning victory had its share of exciting moments, including a right-handed home run from Ji-Man Choi.
The Tampa Bay Rays pulled out another thrilling win over the Blue Jays, winning 6-5 in the 10th inning. Blake Snell started the game but was limited to just two innings. He didn’t allow a run on three hits and struck out five batters while walking two.
Tampa Bay Rays – Ji-Man Choi
The real treat came in the third inning when the Blue Jays brought in left-handed reliever Anthony Kay to take the ball from starter Thomas Hatch. Ji-Man Choi is deadly against right-handed pitching (.829 OPS last season) but hit just .210 against lefties, with only two of his 19 homers coming off of southpaws. His .210 average last season was actually better than his career .185 average.
During the abbreviated summer camp, the team seemed to have some fun by having Choi hit from the right side. It did seem odd to waste at-bats when the time was of the essence. It turns out, they were not simply fooling about. Choi was previously a switch-hitter in the minor leagues but has never attempted it at the major-league level.
With the lefty on the bump, Choi surprised everyone by stepping into the right side of the batter’s box. He struck out in his first at-bat as a righty but that wasn’t enough to cause manager Kevin Cash’s faith to waver.
With the score 4-1 in favor of the Blue Jays, Ji-Man Choi faced off against Anthony Kay again in the bottom of the sixth. Here was the glorious result:
That ball was measured at 110 mph off of his bat. Last season he didn’t hit one over 100.7 mph as a left-handed hitter.
If Choi can provide real production against lefties this season, he could break out of the “platoon player” role he carries with him due to his inability against southpaws.
As a lefty, he has a career triple slash of .259/.359/.487 against right-handed pitching, if he can improve upon his career .584 OPS against lefties then he could greatly increase his value. It’s not out of the question for him to become a 25-30 homer player with the additional opportunities he may receive as a switch-hitter.
The most fun player in baseball just got even more entertaining.