He came into Sunday’s meeting against the White Sox with only 15 at-bats this spring, but new Reds leadoff hitter Shin-Soo Choo has drawn some lofty comparisons from manager Dusty Baker.
Before the Reds grabbed a 7-3 decision from the Sox at Camelback Ranch, Baker likened Choo’s plate demeanor to the club’s three-time All-Star first baseman.
“He kinda uses the whole field like Joey (Votto),” Baker said. “His approach is similar to Joey’s, which is conducive to hitting.”
Even though their games are very different, it’s not an unfair measuring stick to use. Choo’s a left-handed batter, but he prefers to push the ball into left-center. And while Votto has led the major leagues in on-base percentage over the last five years with a .417 mark, Choo ranks seventh on that list (.384) behind sluggers Joe Mauer, Albert Pujols, Prince Fielder, Miguel Cabrera and Matt Holliday.
Choo has missed some starts because of some tightness in his left leg, but he led things off on Sunday much like Votto might have, with a single to left field. He followed with a double that reached the wall in left to start the third inning, then stole a base and scored on a sacrifice fly off the bat of Jay Bruce. He also singled in the fourth and sixth innings, going 4-for-4 against the ChiSox.
Baker said the injury might have slowed Choo’s progress this spring, but he isn’t particularly worried. The manager insisted the lifetime .289 hitter should be good to go come April 1.
“He’s not ready yet, but he works hard,” Baker said. “He’ll be ready by the time the season starts.”
World peace?: Speaking of Votto, Baker said he didn’t notice where the Reds slugger was during Saturday night’s brawl between Canada and Mexico in the World Baseball Classic.
Baker did say, however, the tournament’s format might have been partially responsible for igniting the fracas. Although Canada was leading the contest handily, the team was still looking to sacrifice runners over in an attempt to add to its run differential.
“I’ve gone to my son’s game and when they’re adding up opposing runs and runs against that makes it conducive to adding all that and piling it on,” Baker said. “And normally that would be piling it on. That’s what happens with point differential in there, that makes it look like it’s piling it on.”
As for the fight, was he surprised to see it escalate?
“There’s people all over the world not getting along,” Baker said. “I read something the other day there’s just a few hours of the whole year where somebody wasn’t fighting.”
Out of options: As cuts approach, a number of players are hoping they can displace members of the Reds current 40-man roster.
Baker was asked if it’s fair to say those out of options are in a different category.
“It’s fair to say, but it’s not really fair in the decision process,” Baker said. “But life’s not fair sometimes. You’ve got four pretty good guys who could make the club, but then you’d have to take four guys off.”
The four Baker noted included a pitcher, a catcher and a pair of infielders.
“(Armando) Gallaraga is throwing the ball well. (Miguel) Olivo and his background. (Emmanuel) Burriss and his background. (Cesar) Izturis,” Baker said. “That’s where the tricky part comes upstairs because you know I want to take the best players, but upstairs has to decide who do you take off, and do you lose somebody, take them off the roster.”
Extra bases: Jack Hannahan did a nice job defensively on Sunday, making a pair of tough stops at first base in the first inning to help Johnny Cueto out of a jam. Hannahan and Neftali Soto have been splitting most of the time at first with Votto at the WBC. … Cueto got some extended work, giving up a pair of runs on three hits through four innings of work. He also took his second fielding spill of the spring, rushing off the mound after Blake Takotte bunted. Cueto slipped and fired late to first in an ill-advised play. … Ryan Ludwick was Mr. Reliable in left last season, but he misplayed a ball in the fourth on a fly ball off the bat of Conor Gillaspie. Ludwick wasn’t charged with an error, but he stepped in before realizing the ball was over his head. Gillaspie came around to third with a triple and later scored. Ludwick had just one error last season. … Today is an off day for the Reds, although both Mike Leake and Aroldis Chapman are expected to throw full sessions. Cincinnati plays again on Tuesday against the Dodgers in Goodyear (4:05 p.m. EST), with Mat Latos scheduled to get the start on the hill. Josh Beckett is the projected starter for L.A.