JUPITER, Fla. -- When your nicknames are “The Final Boss” and “Stone Buddha,” do you really need another one?
But new St. Louis Cardinals reliever Seung Hwan Oh is opening it up for his new community to come up with a new nickname for him. After all, those were monikers he got while pitching in his native Korea and in Japan.
“If fans of the Cardinals want to give me a new name, that’d be awesome,” Oh said through an interpreter.
The Final Boss is a bit problematic because the Cardinals aren’t looking for Oh to be their closer. They already have Trevor Rosenthal. They are looking at him to get high-leverage outs to bridge the often-crucial gap between their starters and Rosenthal. Oh threw his first official bullpen session of the spring on Friday, but he began his preparations weeks ago. Both of his previous leagues begin spring training in January and Oh, a right-hander, said he got his throwing program started weeks ago.
Some Korean and Japanese players are surprised when they join a major league team and see how short the workouts here are. Oh said he had to throw more than 100 pitches in batting practice when he was in Japan’s Central League.
“I wouldn’t say it’s really easy here, because you’re kind of on your own and have to set your own pace,” Oh said. “It’s easy, but it’s not easy at the same time.”
Oh, 33, had a 1.81 ERA and averaged nearly 11 strikeouts per nine innings between the Korean and Japanese leagues, prompting the Cardinals to make a rare foray into the Asian market this winter. Listed at 5-foot-10, Oh is short by the standards of major league pitchers, but powerfully built.
Now, it’s about acclimating Oh, not only to camp, but to a new culture where so few people speak his native tongue. The Cardinals’ chef offered to make him kimchi, which he accepted, and some of his teammates have learned a few phrases in Korean.
Oh said the only thing he knew about the city of St. Louis before he signed a one-year contract with a team option for 2017 was the Gateway Arch. He has familiarized himself with its significance as the gateway to the West.
“I knew it was the historical centerpiece of America kind of before it got established,” Oh said. “I’ve seen it in movies and stuff.”