BRADENTON, Fla. – Ji-Man Choi’s tenure with the Pittsburgh Pirates has gotten off to a rocky start. However, he isn’t holding a grudge.
On Friday, he lost his salary arbitration hearing to the Pirates. Choi will have a $4.65-million salary this season instead of the $5.4 million he was seeking.
That came on the heels of the Pirates not granting permission to Choi to participate for South Korea in next month’s World Baseball Classic. Choi underwent arthroscopic elbow surgery in November, not long after the Pirates acquired him from the Tampa Bay Rays in a trade.
In fairness to the Pirates, though, it would have made no sense for them to allow Choi to play in such high-intensity games so soon after surgery.
“No hard feelings right now,” Choi said Sunday through a translator. “It is what it is. I want to focus on the team right now. I want to build a relationship with the players here. I want to focus on the present.”
Choi spoke with the media for the first time, two days after arriving at the Pirates’ spring training camp, and said his elbow is “much better” and that he has “no restrictions. I’m following the schedule.”
The Pirates added two first basemen in the offseason as they also signed Carlos Santana as a free agent in November. Choi said he has not yet been told if he will be the primary first baseman or alternate at both first and designated hitter with Santana.
The 31-year-old Ji-Man Choi is entering his eighth season and the Pittsburgh Pirates hope he can add some veteran perspective to many of their young players. One of those players is rookie infielder/outfielder Ji Hwan Bae, a fellow South Korean.
“This team is young. There are so many young players,” Choi said. “They may learn from me, (outfielder Andrew McCutchen) or Santana. I’ve been taking care of Bae since Bae got here to the stateside. I’ve been helping him since then.”