Choo leadoff experiment an unbridled success

Choo leadoff experiment an unbridled success

Choo leadoff experiment an unbridled success
CLEVELAND -- Shin-Soo Choo's role as the Indians' leadoff hitter is past the point of being an experiment. It looks like Choo has found his permanent home -- at least for this season.

"He's such a natural for that," manager Manny Acta said. "He was the ideal guy."

The Indians' right fielder continued his hot hitting when he led off the bottom of the first inning with a 381-foot solo blast to right field on Thursday night. Choo was on base in three of his four plate appearances in the game, going 2-for-3 with a walk.

That kind of stat line has become the norm for Choo in 48 games, entering Friday, since moving to the top spot in the batting order. He was hitting .327 (64-for-196) with eight homers, 20 RBIs and 20 multi-hit games since becoming the team's leadoff hitter on May 14, raising his average from .235 to .295 during that span.

The Indians have tried a number of guys in the leadoff spot -- including Johnny Damon and Michael Brantley -- but they got little production from it until the move to Choo.

"He's been phenomenal," Brantley said. "It's just nice to have someone always on base for your two, three, four guys coming up. It's a big boost, it's going to create more runs. Hopefully, he keeps swinging it the way he is."

Choo's homer on Thursday was his fourth leadoff blast of the season. His success at the plate early in games energizes the offense, but it also helps the starting pitcher settle in on the mound.

"It's huge because he's either on base, or it's 1-0," starter Josh Tomlin said. "He kind of scares them out of the zone right off the bat. That can be a difference-maker in the lineup. You see a guy kind of getting scared out of the zone right off the bat, maybe he loses it for a couple innings. He's been doing that for us."

Despite his success in the leadoff spot, Choo continues to say he hasn't done anything differently. No matter where he's hitting in the lineup, he's has the same approach at the plate.

"I just play like me," he said. "I don't think too much. I just see the ball and swing. Good things have been happening for me."