Boston Red Sox

Boston Red Sox

Friday, March 24, 2006

HEE-SEOP'S ABLE

The Red Sox claimed Hee-Seop Choi off waivers from the Los Angeles Dodgers today, giving them another first base option as a back up to Kevin Youkilis. Given Mike Lowell's underwhelming performance this spring, it could portend the possibility of moving Youkilis back to third and platooning Choi with JT Snow.

Theo Epstein acknowledged as much by saying, "We have liked Choi for a long time and view this as an opportunity to acquire him when his value is down a bit. We like his power, his patience and his hands at first base. Choi provides depth for us at first base and in a way third base as well, considering Kevin Youkilis' ability to play both positions."

The 27-year-old Choi, a native of South Korea, has a career batting average of just .240, but also has a .349 on-base percentage. In 363 career games, he's hit 40 home runs and 120 RBI. Last year, in a career-high 133 games, he hit .253 with career highs of 81 hits and 42 RBI. He also had 15 homers for the second consecutive season, three coming in one game against Minnesota on June 12.

The Sox clearly don't need another first baseman. Snow is perhaps the finest defensive first baseman in the game today, and Youkilis has played exceptionally well there this spring. So the acquisition of Choi should be a signal to Lowell, who may feel the added pressure. Lowell has to prove that last year was merely an off season, and not the beginning of a downward spiral. It may just be a matter of time before the Sox have themselves a $9 million per year bench warmer in Lowell, with Youkilis returning to his natural position.

"We'll see how our roster shakes out," Epstein said. "But Choi does have minor-league options if we want him to get everyday at-bats in Triple-A for a period of time."

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