The secret behind Rays’ Ji-Man Choi’s surprising flexibility


Ji-Man Choi’s attention to detail in trying to become a better player includes pilates.

The Rays first baseman performed a split in fielding a throw on Mookie Betts’ grounder to begin Game 3 of the World Series on Friday. A day later he explained the secret to such flexibility, which has been on display throughout the season.

“Pilates during the offseason,” Choi said through an interpreter before the Rays faced the Dodgers in Game 4 of the World Series in Arlington, Texas.

Choi, a former Yankee, said his flexibility developed naturally, as a byproduct of trying to catch the ball at the earliest point possible.

“More practice with that I think has helped me with my flexibility,” he said. “A lot of people think I’m a gymnast instead of baseball player, but I think that is a credit to all the work I have done throughout the offseason and in practice.

“The flexibility is the key part in any sport, so I try my best to try to stretch before getting on the field. I think that has helped me to get more flexibility as the time went on.”

Ji-Man ChoiAP

The Rays are still waiting for Choi’s bat to heat up after he helped carry the team in the ALDS and ALCS, against the Yankees and Astros, respectively.

Entering Saturday, he was only 1-for-7 in the series, but that Game 2 hit was noteworthy: Choi became the first Korean player with a hit in the World Series.

“It’s an honor to be the first Korean-born position player to be in the World Series,” Choi said. “I think more important is being on this stage with this group of guys, especially with what we had to go through this year with all the pandemic stuff. If it wasn’t for our players’ dedication and hard work, I wouldn’t be on this stage.”

Kenley Jansen hit 95 mph in his ninth-inning appearance on Friday, reassuring Dodgers manager Dave Roberts the right-hander’s issues from recent weeks have subsided. Jansen’s fastball had dipped into the mid-80s late in the season.

“It’s good to hear it wasn’t physical, it was kind of delivery, which resonated with me,” Roberts said.

Randy Arozarena blasted a solo homer against Jansen, who was pitching for the first time in five days. Roberts was asked if he considers Jansen, who entered in a non-save situation, as his closer. Roberts would only say Jansen is among his options for “high-leverage” situations.

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