Globe iconLogin iconRecap iconSearch iconTickets icon

news

MLB News

Halos' Choi a self-taught switch-hitter

MLB.com @Alden_Gonzalez

TEMPE, Ariz. -- Ji-Man Choi was in the middle of his sixth professional season and had yet to even sniff the Major Leagues. He was a left-handed-hitting, right-handed-throwing first baseman with a little bit of experience in left field and a desire to make himself more versatile, more attractive. So he thought he'd turn himself into a switch-hitter, which meant learning how to bat right-handed against some of the best pitchers in the world.

"First pitch, line drive," Choi, now trying to win a job with the Angels, said through an interpreter on Saturday.

TEMPE, Ariz. -- Ji-Man Choi was in the middle of his sixth professional season and had yet to even sniff the Major Leagues. He was a left-handed-hitting, right-handed-throwing first baseman with a little bit of experience in left field and a desire to make himself more versatile, more attractive. So he thought he'd turn himself into a switch-hitter, which meant learning how to bat right-handed against some of the best pitchers in the world.

"First pitch, line drive," Choi, now trying to win a job with the Angels, said through an interpreter on Saturday.

• Spring: Tickets | Ballpark | 40-man roster | NRIs

The Mariners left Choi exposed to the Rule 5 Draft, and the Angels selected him in December. He's a solid defensive first baseman with a career .404 on-base percentage in the Minor Leagues, and they think he can help them right now -- as a bat off the bench, an occasional starter in left field and an alternative option at first base.

Choi, a 24-year-old from South Korea, has been limited to 97 games over the past two years. In 2014, he was suspended 50 games after testing positive for a performance-enhancing substance. In 2015, he broke the fibula bone in his right leg during Spring Training and didn't return until the middle of August, an ailment he says is now "100 percent."

As he made his way back, Choi learned to bat right-handed with the encouragement of Mariners Triple-A hitting coach Howard Johnson.

"I did it, and it worked well," Choi said, "so I kept doing it."

Choi's leg kick is a lot more pronounced from the right side of the plate, "But I don't worry about the form," he said. "I just concentrate on hitting the ball. See the ball, hit the ball."

Choi went 6-for-14 as a right-handed hitter down the stretch last season. Not bad for somebody who never batted right-handed in his life. Now, barring a late addition in left field, he has a chance to stick with the Angels.

"I was lucky to be a Rule 5 pick," Choi said. "This is a good opportunity for me to play in the big leagues. I'll do my best to bring wins to the Angels."

Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez and Facebook , and listen to his podcast.

Los Angeles Angels, Ji-Man Choi