Cardinals’ Oh Seung-hwan to stick to trusted arsenal

February 26, 2016
Oh Seung-hwan of the St. Louis Cardinals makes a pitch during spring training in Jupiter, Florida, on Feb. 25, 2016. (Yonhap)

Oh Seung-hwan of the St. Louis Cardinals makes a pitch during spring training in Jupiter, Florida, on Feb. 25, 2016. (Yonhap)

JUPITER, Florida (Yonhap) — Having thrown live batting practice for the first time with the St. Louis Cardinals, South Korean reliever Oh Seung-hwan said Thursday he will mostly stick to his tried and tested arsenal in the majors.

Oh faced hitters for the first time Wednesday to solid reviews. Infielder Greg Garcia said Oh’s ball “was jumping” and the right-hander didn’t offer up anything straight.

Oh, a lights-out closer in both South Korea and Japan for a decade before joining the Cards this offseason, built his career mostly on hard fastballs, while keeping hitters off balance with occasional sliders and changeups.

Working out at Roger Dean Stadium in Florida, Oh said he was aware of criticism that he needed to expand his repertoire if he wanted to succeed in the bigs, but he won’t necessarily seek to fix what’s not broken.

“My bread-and-butter is my fastball,” he said. “I will find out more once I get into games, but I think sliders and changeups are the pitches that complement my fastball. They won’t be my primary pitches.”

Garcia said he saw “a cutter, a changeup-forkball thing, a slow curveball or slider.”

Oh said he only threw pitches that he’d worked on consistently in Japan — while pitching for the Hanshin Tigers the past two years — and it would be difficult to add a new pitch to his repertoire this time of year.

“I tried to change speeds on my slider here,” Oh added. “I also threw a pitch that, depending on its trajectory, could look like a two-seamer or a changeup. But they’re not new pitches I developed for the majors. I knew people kept saying I needed to expand myself, and I also realized I couldn’t afford to stay complacent.”

Oh is the all-time saves leader in the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) with 277 saves, collected across nine seasons with the Samsung Lions, and picked up 80 more saves with the Tigers in the Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB). With the Cardinals already boasting All-Star closer Trevor Rosenthal, Oh will serve as a setup man in the majors.

Asked if he ultimately wants to become a big league closer, Oh said he isn’t interested in any personal glory.

“I can’t be thinking about my role or my stats, because everything is new to me,” he said. “First and foremost, I have to adjust to the club and the major league system. It’s more important to take one step at a time.”

And when he’s not busy trying to learn the ropes in his first big league camp, the 33-year-old pitcher has been honing his culinary skills off the field.

Oh is living with his interpreter, Eugene Koo, about 10 minutes from Roger Dean, and Koo revealed that Oh has been the designated cook in the household.

“He can make delicious fried rice and curry,” said Koo, a Cincinnati native who completed elementary, middle and high school in South Korea. “I do the dishes.”

Oh was a bit more modest in his own assessment.

“I don’t think I am good enough to host people,” he said. “Whenever I crave Korean food, I can cook up something for myself.”

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