Pirates’ Choi Ji-man hits 1st homer of season

April 12, 2023

Seven games into the 2023 season, Choi Ji-man of the Pittsburgh Pirates finally has his first home run with his new team.

Batting fifth as the designated hitter, Choi belted a solo home run off Houston Astros starter Framber Valdez in the bottom of the second inning at PNC Park in Pittsburgh on Monday (local time). The ball traveled 407 feet with an exit velocity of 108.3 mph.

Choi fell behind 0-2 in the count before battling to a full count. Choi then crushed a middle-middle fastball, measured at 94.9 mph, and drove it into the Pirates’ bullpen in center field.

Choi, who was traded by the Tampa Bay Rays to Pittsburgh in November, entered this game batting only 1-for-19 with eight strikeouts in his first six games as a Pirate.

Choi’s home run cut Houston’s lead to 4-1, but the Pirates lost the game 8-2.

Choi didn’t have another hit after the home run. He struck out in the fourth, grounded into a double play in the sixth and struck out again in the ninth for a 1-for-4 day at the plate.

Choi, who bats left-handed, got a rare start against a left-handed starter in this one. While with the Rays, he was usually benched against southpaw starters and was pulled when a left-handed reliever came on. In 2022, Choi had just 57 plate appearances against left-handers, batting .294 but with no home run. For his career, Choi had batted .202 with four homers in 279 plate appearances against lefties prior to Monday’s game.

This was Choi’s first home run off a left-handed pitcher while batting left-handed since Sept. 11, 2019, against Yohander Mendez of the Texas Rangers.

On July 26, 2020, Choi homered off Toronto Blue Jays left-hander Anthony Kay, but Choi was experimenting with switch hitting at the time and went deep from the right side of the plate.