By Yoo Jee-ho
SEOUL, Feb. 24 (Yonhap) -- They say baseball is a small world. If you're in the game long enough, you're bound to run into familiar faces even in different leagues.
And during his first season in the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO), former Texas Rangers All-Star Choo Shin-soo will experience just that. Even though he has never previously played pro ball in South Korea, Choo is set to go up against a few pitchers he met before in Major League Baseball (MLB).
Choo signed a one-year deal with the new Shinsegae-owned club, soon to be renamed from the SK Wyverns, on Tuesday, putting an end to a 16-year MLB career. If all goes well during spring training and the exhibition season, Choo will make his KBO debut on Opening Day on April 3.
Choo's team will host the Lotte Giants in Incheon, just west of Seoul. Dan Straily, former major leaguer and undisputed No. 1 starter for the Giants, is expected to get the starting assignment.
It also happens that, in MLB, Choo faced Straily more than any other pitcher currently in the KBO.
Choo went 4-for-11 with a home run, a double, an RBI, three walks and two strikeouts against Straily between 2013 and 2017. The lone homer was a leadoff blast by Choo for the Rangers while Straily was pitching for the Oakland Athletics on April 21, 2014. Their most recent meeting came on July 25, 2017, with Straily on the mound for the Miami Marlins and Choo still with the Rangers. Choo batted 1-for-3 against Straily in that game.
KBO teams will each employ two foreign pitchers this season, and not counting Choo's two teammates, Wilmer Font and Artie Lewicki, that leaves 18 pitchers from overseas, all of them with big league experience. Of those 18, Choo has faced nine of them and had some mixed numbers.
Choo tortured current Doosan Bears' pitcher Ariel Miranda by going 4-for-5 with a double and two RBIs. Batting second for the Rangers, Choo had a two-run double against the Cuban left-hander, then pitching for the Seattle Mariners, on Sept. 11, 2017.
Choo went 2-for-5 and struck out once against Kia Tigers' right-hander Aaron Brooks. He picked up a hit in three at-bats against Drew Rucinski, a third-year starter for the defending champions NC Dinos. Choo had six at-bats against Odrisamer Despaigne of the KT Wiz and managed one hit.
Daniel Mengden, the new right-hander for the Tigers, had the most success against Choo by holding him hitless in six at-bats with two strikeouts. Choo did draw three walks, two of them coming for the Rangers in their last meeting on July 26, 2019. Mengden was with the Athletics then.
Among others, Choo was 0-for-1 against William Cuevas of the Wiz and went 0-for-2 against both Nick Kingham of the Hanwha Eagles and Andrew Suarez of the LG Twins.
Choo did face one Korean pitcher in the majors, Oh Seung-hwan, who played for the St. Louis Cardinals, Toronto Blue Jays and Colorado Rockies from 2016 to 2019. Oh is now pitching for the Samsung Lions.
Choo was 2-for-2 with an RBI against Oh, a good friend of his.
Font and Lewicki never faced Choo in the majors, but they may do so in the KBO during intrasquad games or live batting practice.