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(Yonhap Interview) Choo cares for team more than his personal record

All Headlines 16:14 April 27, 2013

By Lee Chi-dong

WASHINGTON, April 26 (Yonhap) -- Choo Shin-soo, Cincinnati Reds' starting center fielder and leadoff man, said Friday he was more disheartened by his team's loss than an end to his on-base streak.

Choo failed to get on base in Friday's game here against the Washington Nationals at the Nationals Park, and his streak of reaching safely, dating back to Sept. 21 last year, was snapped at 35 games.

Despit going 0-for-4 at the plate, however, Choo is still batting a robust .360 on the season, good for fourth in the National League (NL).

"It was something I have to suffer," Choo said in an interview with Yonhap News Agency, shruggiong off the end of his on-base streak. "I can't get on base every time.

"This moment has just come earlier (than expected)," Choo said.

The Reds lost 1-0 to the Nationals, as Washington starter Jordan Zimmermann pitched a one-hitter. The Reds have managed just one hit in back-to-back games for the first time since July 1900.

"I am more concerned that my team lost again," Choo said.

He pointed out that Zimmermann pitched so well.

"In general, my condition was not bad but I can't help it if a pitcher of the other team does well like that," he said.

With free agency looming after the season, Choo said he is focusing on not physically getting hurt.

"As long as I play every game, I think I will have good accomplishment," Choo said.

Choo also said he is quickly getting used to his new position, center field. Before joining the Reds in a trade last winter, Choo had mostly played right field for the Cleveland Indians. He had only played 10 games in center field, and none since 2009, before the trade.

Choo misjudged a deep fly and looked sloppy in his Reds debut on April 1, and committed two errors in a game a week later. The 30-year-old, who was a finalist for American League Gold Glove in right field last year, has made stride on defense.

Reds manager Dusty Baker said he has still confidence in Choo.

"You can't be good every night. I am not concerned," Baker told Yonhap after the game. "He has still .360. He has been outstanding,"

Baker and the Reds brass have every reason to gush about Choo this year. Through Friday, Choo led the NL with 31 hits and a .505 on-base percentage. He is also among the top 10 in the league in other major offensive categories: he is fourth in runs scored (18), batting average (.360) and walks (15), and is third in on-base plus slugging percentage (OPS) with 1.063.

The Reds won the NL Central Division last year but that was in no thanks to their offense at the top of the order. The Reds used seven different players to leadoff a game, but they combined for only a .208 batting average and a .254 on-base percentage. And with Choo getting on base more than half the time and setting up RBI chances for sluggers like Joey Votto, Jay Bruce and Brandon Phillips, the Reds should once again contend for the division crown -- their recent power outage notwithstanding.

Meanwhile, a major league expert said Friday it's certain that Choo will be a hot commodity in the free agent market after the season.

"I guarantee he will (command big money)," said Jeff Piecoro, reporter-cum-commentator for Fox Sports Ohio who has been covering the Reds for 15 years.

The New York Yankees and some other teams in need of a good leadoff hitter will be interested in Choo, Piecoro added.

"I think he will get a five-year contract... between US$15-17 million a year," Piecoro said, adding Choo could possibly sign for $100 million over five years.

The Reds will apparently want to retain Choo but the question is whether they can afford it, he said.

Choo continues to get on base, which is a key for the team, and he is better than any other major league players in that, Piecoro pointed out.

Choo has a very good eye at plate, along with a solid bat control and a very good arm in the outfield, he added.

lcd@yna.co.kr

leechidong@gmail.com
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