Shin-Soo Choo admits he wasn't quite himself when he returned from the World Baseball Classic, where he played for South Korea, which lost in the finals to Japan.
"It was a different schedule there, a different program and a different time,'' he said Sunday. "My body was different. I came back and I was pretty tired. Now, I'm into my routine and back to hitting regularly. I feel a lot better.''
Both General Manager Mark Shapiro and manager Eric Wedge have cautioned that Choo isn't likely to repeat his second half tour de force of 2008, hitting .343 with 20 doubles, 50 runs, 11 home runs and 48 RBI in 58 games.
"Yes, I guess I was pretty surprised to do that,'' Choo said. "But I have confidence in myself about playing in the big leagues every day.''
So do the Indians.
"Choo has shown great potential in his brief major-league experience,'' Shapiro said. ""That kind of potential might have been a little more than we expected (when he was acquired), but we projected him as an everyday major-league player on a championship team.
One obstacle seems to remain for Choo to prove Shapiro correct: South Korea's policy of demanding that every male serve in the military for two years. Choo has two years to fulfull the obligation.
He hopes he will be granted an exemption because of South Korea's excellence in the WBC.
"I haven't heard anything yet,'' Choo said. ""But only four players weren't given exemptions (the others received a pass by winning the Olympics): the shortstop, two bench players and me.''
Choo knows it would be difficult to return to the big leagues after two years away from baseball. If he is not released from his military obligation, his only alternative might be to remain in the United States.
WINNING IS WINNING -- A few years ago, Wedge accented the importance of winning early in the season, a belief he came to regret.
"Everybody wants to get off to a good start,'' he said Sunday. ""But more important, you want to play well early, because playing well is what stands the test of time. If you play good baseball -- win or lose -- that's what will eventually play out for you (on the plus side).''
As for an overemphasis on early wins, Wedge said, ""I lived and learned on that one, and everybody beat me up about it.''
NO DEGREES OF SEPARATION -- Jensen Lewis and Joe Smith go way back, or way back for men who have barely reached their mid-20s.
Smith pitched for Amelia High School in the Cincinnati area, and Lewis pitched for Cincinnati Anderson.
"I played against him in baseball and basketball,'' Lewis said. ""It's a pretty small world when we end up in the same bullpen.''
FUN BASEBALL? -- It might be a special treat to watch Wednesday night's game against the Rangers. The weather forecast is for temperatures in the low to mid 70s with 31 mph winds and gusts to 49 mph.
The wind usually blows toward the outfield fence in The Ballpark in Arlington.
MARCHING ONWARD -- Here is the rotation for the Tribe's first series in Texas: Cliff Lee vs. Kevin Millwood this afternoon; Fausto Carmona vs. Vicente Padilla Wednesday night; Carl Pavano vs. Brandon McCarthy Thursday afternoon
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