It was this time a year ago that Seung Hwan Oh and the St. Louis Cardinals were still trying to get familiar with one another, as the pitcher was experiencing his first taste of the Major Leagues and life in the United States.
“Managing my time, a lot better because I know the environment a lot better,” said Oh through translator Eugene Koo in a recent interview. “But exercising and training wise, everything’s still the same.”
“I don’t want to say it was a lot easier, but I haven’t seen any problems so far–so that’s a good thing. That’s the best sign.”
Oh pitched one inning in today’s Grapefruit League opener for the Cardinals–giving up a pair of home runs. But that doesn’t change the expectation for how he will be used in 2017. While last year may not have been defined early, this season he enters as the closer.
“I don’t think we’ve made any question about that,” reiterated Mike Matheny on Day One of Spring Training. “To have the kind of season that he had last year…he’s our guy that’s going to get the ball late in the game.”
After taking over the role of closer the end of June, Oh recorded 19 saves in 38 appearances to finish the season.
The 34-year old right-hander will become a free agent after this season unless an extension is worked out with the Cardinals.
“The best for me would just being focused on the field and the training,” said Oh. “Everyone has their own part in this industry, that’s why I have my agent here too.”
Indeed, his agent Douglas Kim was in attendance at Cardinals camp. However, there is not an urgent need to reach a deal before the season begins, as Oh is not concerned about any distractions.
“Not at all,” he said. “I have a trusting relationship with my agent–not just because he’s here. But I have that relationship with him, so I’m going to leave everything to him. My job is just doing everything on the field.”
The job this year includes pitching for the Cardinals and in the World Baseball Classic for his native South Korea.
The this will be Oh’s fourth WBC, the balance of getting enough work to prepare for the regular season while participating in the WBC is not an exact science. Oh admits to starting his workouts a little bit earlier this year, focusing on fundamentals, but otherwise has no dramatic changes.
“I’m trying to approach it the same way,” he said. “Just trying to think in my mind that the season’s starting a little bit earlier. But other than that, it’s pretty much the same.
According to reports, Oh is expected to leave Spring Training tomorrow to head back to Korea for WBC practice before tournament play gets underway on Monday, March 6th.
photo credit: STLBaseballWeekly.com