Choo remains focused on 'better' for Rangers


SURPRISE, Ariz. — Rangers outfielder Shin-Soo Choo is off to a strong start in Spring Training, hitting .438 through his first seven games. That is hardly going to satisfy him.

“I feel OK … not great, but I am getting better every day,” Choo said. “I’m trying something different every day. I don’t care about results, it’s about getting better every day.

SURPRISE, Ariz. — Rangers outfielder Shin-Soo Choo is off to a strong start in Spring Training, hitting .438 through his first seven games. That is hardly going to satisfy him.

“I feel OK … not great, but I am getting better every day,” Choo said. “I’m trying something different every day. I don’t care about results, it’s about getting better every day.

“It’s never good enough. I never think I am good enough. I’m always trying to get better.”

“It’s never good enough” is the operative phrase because that often seems what Choo is up against as far as public perception. He is entering his fifth season of a seven-year, $130 million contract, and the perception lingers that the deal has not work out well for Texas.

Inside the Rangers’ clubhouse, they understand and appreciate what Choo means to their team. Outside the clubhouse?

“I think some people do and some people don’t know what he does for us,” third baseman Adrian Beltre said. “He is one of our leaders. He leads by example. Obviously we know he is a high on-base guy, hit 20-plus home runs, he’s going to give you RBIs, score a lot of runs. He is a guy you want on your team.”

Video: Outlook: Choo has solid OBP thanks to his sharp eye

Yet there is often the view put forth that the Rangers would be better served unloading Choo’s contract. They have no desire to do that.

“We value exactly who Choo is and how significant he is on this team on how good a Major League hitter he is and the type of at-bats he puts together,” manager Jeff Banister said. “He doesn’t show up and hit the glory home run numbers … but when you look at the on-base [percentage] and how he makes the pitcher work and then shows up in double-digit home runs and he scores runs at a high rate, you have to recognize who this guy is.”

There is no doubt Choo’s best years came earlier in his career, before he signed with the Rangers. But it would be folly to assume that Choo, when healthy, should have delivered more than he has in Texas, especially now that he is well into the second half of his career.

Choo hit .261 last season with 96 runs scored, 22 home runs, 78 RBIs, 12 stolen bases, 77 walks, a .357 on-base percentage and a .423 slugging percentage. Those numbers are relatively close to his career 162-game averages: a .278 batting average, 95 runs, 21 home runs, 79 RBIs, 16 stolen bases, a .378 on-base percentage and a .449 slugging percentage.

If the Rangers, or anybody else, was expecting much more than that, their hopes are not grounded in reality.

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“He has a great approach,” White Sox pitcher James Shields said. “He looks like he has a lot of fun on the other side. He is always a tough out. He gives that lineup a different dynamic. He can bunt, take a walk, hit the ball out of the park. He can do it all for them.”

Choo understands there are people who believe he should do more. That doesn’t bother him.

“The only thing that bothers me is when people say I’m always hurt,” Choo said. “That was one year … 2016. I got hit by a pitch and broke my arm. You can’t do anything about that. But people always remember the bad things. That bothers me.”

Choo’s first year in Texas was a struggle. He played most of the season through a strained left ankle and a bone spur in his left elbow. Choo was finally shut down at the end of August and underwent surgery on the elbow.

Choo was at his best in 2015, especially in the second half when carried the Rangers’ offense to a division title. Again, the numbers were in line with his career: .276 batting average, 94 runs scored, 22 home runs, 82 RBIs, 76 walks, .375 on-base percentage and a .463 slugging percentage.

Choo was on the disabled list four times in 2016 and that made it tough. But he was healthy in ’17, possibly because Texas used him in the outfield and at designated hitter. That will likely be the plan again this season.

“I know what I can do if I am healthy,” Choo said. “And if I play a full season, my numbers will be there.”

Choo is still happy that he elected to sign with the Rangers.

“Yeah, I love it here,” he said. “Great city … great people. I like the city, and I like the team. Every year they are trying to add players and trying to win. I love it here. People are good to me and my family. I never have any regrets about picking the Rangers.”

The Rangers shouldn’t have any regrets either.

T.R. Sullivan has covered the Rangers since 1989, and for MLB.com since 2006. Follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger and listen to his podcast.



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