BRADENTON, Fla. -- Growing up, Ji-Hwan Bae only watched Korean baseball. Then, a decade ago, Shin-Soo Choo caught on with the Indians. Seeing that opened up a "whole new world," the 18-year-old shortstop said."Since then, my dream was becoming a big league player," Bae added Monday through interpreter Bumyun Hahn.Bae
BRADENTON, Fla. -- Growing up, Ji-Hwan Bae only watched Korean baseball. Then, a decade ago, Shin-Soo Choo caught on with the Indians. Seeing that opened up a "whole new world," the 18-year-old shortstop said.
"Since then, my dream was becoming a big league player," Bae added Monday through interpreter Bumyun Hahn.
Bae will embark on the path toward that dream in the Pirates' system. After his contract with the Braves was voided, the Bucs signed Bae for about $1.25 million and invited him to Minor League camp at Pirate City.
"I'm trying to get used to different cultures and different baseball," he said.
The Pirates gave Bae the second-largest signing bonus they've ever awarded to an international amateur player, behind only the $3 million deal for former prospect Luis Heredia. They have spent more than $5.25 million of their $5.75 million bonus pool, which means Bae's deal was technically made possible by the $500,000 in international signing bonus pool money the Bucs received from the Giants in the Andrew McCutchen trade.
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Bae drew interest from the Pirates even before signing with the Braves. After his contract was voided, he said Pittsburgh was the most active team in pursuing him. He heard a lot about their player development system and facilities and, of course, was a fan of Jungho Kang.
Now on the restricted list and unable to acquire a work visa, Kang was a star in South Korea before the Pirates made him the first position player to go straight from the Korea Baseball Organization to the Majors. Bae never had any contact with Kang, but he watched his on-field success from afar.
On Monday, the Pirates called up Bae from Minor League camp to play in their 6-3 loss to the Phillies at LECOM Park. Bae pinch-ran for Jordy Mercer in the seventh inning, remained in the game at shortstop and flied out to center in his only at-bat.
"He's a fun guy," said manager Clint Hurdle, who met Bae on Sunday at Pirate City. "The teammates love him."
Around the horn
• Non-roster right-hander Bo Schultz pitched a scoreless seventh inning in his Grapefruit League debut on Monday. The outing came less than a year -- 362 days, by his count -- after the 32-year-old Schultz had Tommy John surgery, an impressive accomplishment following such a significant and often career-altering operation.
"I don't know if it was necessarily emotional, but it was definitely weird. It was different than normal just because it's been so long since I've had the opportunity to be on the field and compete," said Schultz, who last pitched in the Majors for the Blue Jays in 2016. "This is a step in the right direction, but it's still not a Major League Baseball game. Once I hit that point, that'll be the coup de grace."
• After Monday's game, the Pirates officially reassigned Schultz, catcher Ryan Lavarnway and outfielder Daniel Nava to Minor League camp. Schultz will remain in Florida, either working in extended spring training or joining the Class A Advanced Bradenton club. Nava will continue his rehabilitation from back surgery at Pirate City.
• The Mets on Monday claimed Bryce Brentz off waivers. The Pirates waived Brentz on Saturday, when they decided the out-of-options outfielder would not make their Opening Day roster.
The Pirates will wrap up their Spring Training schedule on Tuesday then head north following their 1:05 p.m. ET game against the Phillies at Spectrum Field. Jameson Taillon will make the start, six days before taking the ball for Pittsburgh's home opener at PNC Park, against Philadelphia's Jacob Arrieta. Felipe Rivero and Chad Kuhl, who will start Sunday in Detroit, are also scheduled to pitch for the Bucs.
The lineup is a potential Opening Day preview, with Josh Harrison leading off followed by Gregory Polanco, Starling Marte, Josh Bell, Corey Dickerson, Francisco Cervelli, Colin Moran, David Freese (DH) and Jordy Mercer. Listen live to an exclusive webcast on Pirates.com or watch for free on MLB.TV.
Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook and read his blog.