Extra Bases: The Shin-Soo Choo blueprint

April, 2, 2014
Apr 2
7:45
AM CT
ARLINGTON, Texas -- For those wondering how Texas Rangers general manager Jon Daniels and his staff envisioned Shin-Soo Choo's presence in the lineup, Tuesday was Exhibit A.

Perhaps the biggest reason the Rangers stretched to a seventh year on Choo -- something they only did late in the negotiating process this past offseason -- was his ability to get on base. Choo seems to do it by any means possible.

[+] EnlargeShin-Soo Choo
Tom Pennington/Getty ImagesShin-Soo Choo was hit by a pitch in the left foot, walked and had two singles to reach base in four of his five plate appearances Tuesday.
On Tuesday, he was hit by a pitch in the left foot, walked and had two singles, getting on base in four of his five plate appearances.

If Choo didn’t get on base in the seventh and ninth innings, Adrian Beltre wouldn’t have had the chance to play hero.

His struggles against left-handed pitching in 2013 were well-chronicled, and the Phillies sent one lefty after another out there to face him on Monday with success. But on Tuesday, the strategy backfired. Choo got ahead 2-0 in the count off lefty Jacob Diekman and hit a 97 mph fastball to left to lead things off with the Rangers down by a run. A few batters later, Beltre delivered his two-out, opposite-field double to score Choo for the tying run.

Before Choo stepped in for his at-bat in the ninth, the Phillies inserted left-handed reliever Mario Hollands. Choo knew the scouting report and that Hollands was making his big league debut.

"He threw two balls, and I wanted to see two strikes," Choo said.

He never saw them.

Choo walked on four pitches and the Rangers were on their way. Elvis Andrus made a shrewd two-strike sacrifice bunt to get Choo to second and Beltre, once again, hit a game-winning single to right.

Choo ended up seeing 21 pitches in his five plate appearances, including seven to start the game. That first-inning single didn't yield a run. But it set the tone that the Rangers would be patient and work at-bats. They did that when it mattered most on Tuesday, following Choo's lead.

That was the blueprint when he signed his contract.

Finding playing time: Rangers manager Ron Washington started catcher Robinson Chirinos and second baseman Donnie Murphy on Tuesday, after going with J.P. Arencibia and Josh Wilson on Monday.

The skipper doesn't want anybody getting stale, especially this early in the season. It will be interesting to watch whether he ends up going with the hot hand or finds a rotation he likes. Wilson played well in his debut on Monday, getting a couple of hits and three RBIs.

"[Murphy] can play and Josh can play," Washington said. "I'm going to find both of them time and that way we keep both of them engaged. It's not going to be one guy that's going to take over, unless they keep going 5-for-5 every time they play."

The DH spot could end up as a platoon, though Washington went with Mitch Moreland against lefty Cliff Lee in the opener. If Michael Choice plays mainly against left-handed pitchers, he will likely get a shot in Tampa. But Washington didn't rule out Choice starting Wednesday's game against right-handed pitcher Kyle Kendrick.
Richard Durrett joined ESPNDallas.com in September 2009. He writes about colleges, the Dallas Stars and the Texas Rangers. Richard spent nine years at The Dallas Morning News covering the Rangers, Stars, colleges, motorsports and high schools.

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TEAM LEADERS

WINS LEADER
Yu Darvish
WINS ERA SO IP
9 2.88 154 122
OTHER LEADERS
BAA. Beltre .325
HRA. Beltre 14
RBIA. Beltre 53
RA. Beltre 52
OPSA. Beltre .889
ERAY. Darvish 2.88
SOY. Darvish 154