Even the director was surprised, “Bae Ji-hwan, you have grown tremendously in a month”… I smell a big leaguer.

Bae Ji-hwan (24, Pittsburgh) had a bumpy first month on the opening roster of a major league baseball team for the first time since arriving in the United States. His quick feet were enough to catch the attention of many, but there were times when his motivation was overwhelming and his hitting production was not as good. The fast feet were the only thing that stood out.

Until April, Bae split time between second base and center field for the team, playing 27 games (21 starts). During that time, he stole 11 bases and joined the National League’s stolen base race. However, his offensive numbers weren’t great, with a 스포츠토토 .250 batting average, .302 on-base percentage, and .652 OPS. A lot of his infield hits came with his feet, and a few surprise bunts led to opposing teams pulling their defense.

Add to that a string of stolen bases in late April and early May. Opposing pitchers and catchers now know that Bae can play at any time. Pitchers make adjustments, and even catchers make adjustments. They even trap him with a de facto pitch-out when he’s ready to run. He’s motivated and makes plays that aren’t quite polished yet.

Pittsburgh manager Derek Shelton said he sat down with Bae in early May and talked to him about how to control his energy, a mantra that required him to calmly recognize when to run and when not to. But as a young athlete, it was expected that he would grow from the experience, and he has.

Since May, Bae has played in 33 games (27 starts) through June 14. He has eight stolen bases in that span. Compared to April, he hasn’t attempted as many steals. However, he is now contributing to the team’s offense with his bat. Bae is batting .289 with a .346 on-base percentage and a .707 OPS during this stretch. Narrowing it down to his last 21 games, he has a .324 batting average, .373 on-base percentage, and .785 OPS.

Bae’s recent focus has been on getting on base. In an interview with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Bae said, “Every hitter wants to hit home runs. But I know what I’m good at and I’m trying to do that,” he said, “putting the ball in play, getting on base and scoring runs. That’s my job,” he emphasized.

He aims to get on base rather than hit for extra bases, and realizes that it is his job to come home as “safely” as possible after getting on base with a walk or a hit. “I’ve been trying to calm down and read the situation better, and I know they’re trying to make me a better player,” Bae said of his meetings with the coaching staff.

Coach Shelton also praised Bae’s progress. “Sometimes when young guys come to the big leagues who can run like he can, they think they can outrun the ball,” Shelton said. “I have a lot of conversations with the first base coach about, ‘Okay, this is the right situation, this is why we’re running, this is why we’re not running. That’s the learning and experience of how to play the game. Bae has improved tremendously over the past month.”

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette called Bae’s progress impressive. “If this is truly a toned-down version of Bae, the Pirates should be excited about it,” the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette wrote. He’s great in center field defense. He’ll take the occasional route to the ball, but honestly, he might be the best option right now,” and “Bae is also incredibly fast. Only 11 major leaguers have a faster sprint speed than him, and his home-to-first time leads all players.

“Although Arizona’s Corbin Carroll is the favorite to win National League Rookie of the Year, and Cincinnati’s Ella de la Cruz has injected some excitement into the race, Bae has quietly put together a solid season,” the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette wrote, “and it could be even better if recent trends hold.

Indeed, Bae’s offensive metrics continue to climb, and he’s making fewer errors at the plate. Even though he’s not the type of player who can blast a ton of home runs, that’s more than enough to get him a spot in the major leagues. After a rocky start, Bae has the makings of a major leaguer. Here’s to his first full season.

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