June 18, 2024

When Ji-Hwan Bae returned from a chronic rehabilitation project for a left ankle sprain in mid-August, one Pittsburgh Pirates participant specifically was thrilled to see the rookie return to the lineup.

“Bae’s a key piece to the puzzle,” Andrew McCutchen mentioned. “He’s a man who can use his velocity to get on base, steal bases and make one thing occur on the bottom paths. That was an important a part of the staff.”

McCutchen has taken a eager curiosity in Bae, who’s splitting time between second base and middle subject, and turn out to be a mentor who typically provides phrases of recommendation within the dugout on his protection.

“That’s large as a result of he’s a job mannequin on this clubhouse for everyone,” Bae mentioned of McCutchen. “Within the sport, he’ll give me quick recommendation like, ‘You don’t need to rush on this. You are able to do this as an alternative of this.’ That helps me loads.”

Maybe the five-time All-Star, 2012 Gold Glove winner and 2013 NL MVP sees a little bit of himself within the 24-year-old South Korean in middle, as Bae makes use of distinctive velocity to steal bases and chase down fly balls and make his share of spectacular catches the way in which McCutchen as soon as did.

“He confirmed he might do it when he was on the market,” McCutchen mentioned. “He’s a little bit of a burner on the market. He doesn’t know when to show it on and switch it off. It’s simply 100% on a regular basis. However that comes with time, as properly. He’s not a pure middle fielder. That comes with time. … However he performs good middle subject. He’s made some improbable performs on the market. He’d be a very good middle fielder, truthfully.”

The Pirates have performed Bae as a lot in middle as they’ve at second base since he was activated from the injured checklist Aug. 18, beginning 5 video games at every place. Bae seems receptive to the thought of shifting to middle subject, whether or not it’s full time or in late-inning conditions.

“It’s good to see folks belief me on the market,” Bae mentioned. “That makes me extra comfy. I feel they wish to see extra velocity on the market. I can cowl extra grass on the market.”

Bae’s 253 innings over 49 video games, together with 24 begins, are the second-most on the Pirates behind Jack Suwinski. The place Suwinski has performed twice as many video games (100) and thrice as many innings (770), he additionally has minus-6 defensive runs saved in contrast with Bae’s minus-1.

That’s not unhealthy, contemplating Bae got here up via the minors as a center infielder. This isn’t the primary time the Pirates have experimented with transitioning a participant from the dust to the grass beneath supervisor Derek Shelton. The place All-Star second baseman Adam Frazier proved adept at enjoying left subject, the makes an attempt of transferring shortstop Cole Tucker to middle and second basemen Michael Chavis, Diego Castillo and Hoy Park to proper subject had been short-lived.

The Pirates are relying on Bae’s velocity and athleticism to make up for his inexperience within the outfield, particularly given the glut of prospects at second base. Bae has probably the most begins (43) there, however Liover Peguero is getting the majority of enjoying time now and the Pirates even have top-10 prospects in first-round picks Nick Gonzales and Termarr Johnson.

Shelton has confidence in Bae in middle.

“Oh, he can play middle,” Shelton mentioned. “I feel it’s simply gonna be a figuring out issue of the place we really feel his worth is the best. In the end, I feel we’re gonna in all probability see that his worth goes to be the best with the ability to play a number of positions. When it comes to being a middle fielder, yeah, he’s not gonna have any points being on the market.”

His studying curve is steep, as Bae was getting unhealthy reads and jumps on the ball off the bat and taking poor routes. After coming into the sport as a defensive substitute within the ninth inning Wednesday night time, he missed Maikel Garcia’s fly ball that went for a triple within the 4-1 win on the Kansas Metropolis Royals.

“Simply because he didn’t play there, I don’t assume firstly of the season he was pure there,” Shelton mentioned. “I feel the catch he made in Boston highlights simply how good of an athlete he’s. He’s gotten extra comfy on the market, he’s labored actually laborious to be higher on the market. His routes are higher, his breaks are higher, after which he’s acquired the velocity to simply shut on balls.”

Bae confirmed fearlessness within the first week of the season when he made a leaping catch towards Fenway Park’s famed Inexperienced Monster in left-center to rob Alex Verdugo of an extra-base hit. That confirmed Shelton that Bae might play the place with out hesitation or reservation. Bae crashed into the wall for a catch to rob J.P. Crawford to ship the sport into further innings on Might 28 at Seattle.

“The one factor that I feel actually stands out about Ji is that the majority guys that transition to the outfield, one in every of their challenges is the wall. He’s not afraid of the wall,” Shelton mentioned. “We’ve seen him run into it two or thrice at full velocity.”

What has impressed Shelton is how Bae has improved on the plate since occurring the 10-day injured checklist on July 2. In 12 video games, Bae is batting .250 (9 for 36) with a .357 on-base proportion, drawing six walks in 42 plate appearances.

The place Bae supplied a distraction on the bases within the opening month, with 11 steals and 17 runs, getting on base turned an issue because the season progressed. After slashing .304/.360/.391 in Might, his batting common dipped to .159 and his OBP to .236 in June.

Bae admits he was struggling, so he watched video of his first half to determine the issue. He felt rushed, like he was making an attempt to do an excessive amount of. So he addressed his setup and swing and targeted on being athletic.

“The massive change is I’m not swinging and lacking that a lot,” Bae mentioned. “For those who hit the nook (of the plate), I’ll give it to the pitcher. I’m seeing what I’m going to hit. That’s helped me get walks. That’s what I’m making an attempt to do.”

In any case, Bae’s 21 stolen bases this season are probably the most by a Pirates rookie since McCutchen’s 22 in 2009. The Pirates imagine Bae generally is a game-changer on the bases if he can get on with consistency. Bae doubled in back-to-back video games towards the Chicago Cubs on Sunday and the Royals on Monday and reached on an infield error Tuesday.

“The largest factor is he’s actually in management,” Shelton mentioned. “He’s taking aggressive swings, however he hasn’t been uncontrolled. … After which, total, simply the power he brings. It’s good to see him wholesome. I feel for a little bit bit, he was defending his foot a little bit bit. The truth that he’s wholesome now and capable of transfer, I feel we’re seeing the model we noticed earlier within the 12 months.”

Kevin Gorman is a Tribune-Evaluate employees author. You may contact Kevin by e-mail at [email protected] or by way of Twitter .

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