In this Associated Press file photo from March 9, 2021, Choi Ji-man of the Tampa Bay Rays (R) chats with his manager Kevin Cash during a major league spring training game against the Boston Red Sox at Charlotte Sports Park in Port Charlotte, Florida. (Yonhap)
Tampa Bay Rays' South Korean first baseman Choi Ji-man will begin the 2021 season on the shelf, as he's scheduled to undergo knee surgery this week.
The Rays announced before their spring training finale in Lakeland, Florida, on Tuesday (local time) that Choi will undergo arthroscopic surgery on his right knee Wednesday morning. Though the exact timetable for Choi's return hasn't been determined, he's expected to miss three to five weeks.
The regular season opens Thursday across the United States.
"We're going to really need Ji-man to work hard throughout the rehab process, while he's rehabbing his knee, to get the rest of his body in as good a shape as possible to speed that up so we can see him back on the field, in the lineup for us quickly," manager Kevin Cash was quoted as saying on MLB.com.
Choi first reported pain in his right knee at the end of February and rested for a few days. It forced him to miss a day at the onset of camp.
Choi returned and played in five spring training games. He was batting .364/.500/.455 with an RBI and three walks, when the knee flared up in the middle of the month.
Choi took a cortisone shot on March 13 and was sidelined for 10 days with no baseball activities. Choi then took some swings in the cage and played catch last Wednesday, hoping to be ready early in the season.
But then the player reported more soreness in the knee Monday, which prompted the Rays to shut him down.
With Choi gone, the Rays plan to rely on Yandy Diaz and Yoshi Tsutsugo at first base. Tsutsugo, who bats left-handed like Choi, will be the main option against right-handed pitchers, while the right-handed Diaz will be up against left-handers. (Yonhap)