Mariners' Choi taking his chances

Mavericks first baseman goes 4-for-5, plates three runs

Ji-Man Choi plated 43 runs in 66 games in 2012. (Paul R. Gierhart/

By Ashley Marshall / Special to | April 11, 2013 11:08 PM ET

In many ways, the first week of Ji-Man Choi's season has mimicked his professional baseball career as a whole.

Besides the obvious small sample size of eight games, the ups and downs of an inconsistent road trip in April can be compared with the wider perspective of a player's month or year.

Choi will be hoping that Thursday's big outing is a sign that his career is once again on the upswing.

The 21-year-old native of South Korea went 4-for-5 with a career-high three doubles, a triple, three RBIs and three runs scored in the Class A Advanced High Desert Mavericks' 14-4 win over the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes.

It was Choi's fourth career four-hit game. He accomplished the feat twice with High Desert in 2010 and most recently last June 30 for Class A Clinton. His three RBIs and three runs scored each fell one short of his personal best.

He laced an RBI double to right field in the second inning and plated Michael Dowd with a two-bagger back up the middle in the third.

After striking out to lead off the fifth, Choi chased home Kevin Rivers and Dowd with a seventh-inning triple that made the score 10-4. An inning later, he ripped a fly ball to left field for his career-best third double of the evening.

Choi started 2013 strong, recording hits in each of the Mavericks' four games in Lancaster and reaching base eight times. In the second half of the road trip against Inland Empire, Choi went hitless. Now following Thursday's big outing, Choi is batting .333 with four RBIs in eight games.

Consider the path the 6-foot-1 first baseman's career has taken so far.

Signed by the Mariners as a non-drafted free agent in 2009, Choi impressed in his first year in the United States, hitting .360 with 30 RBIs and 10 steals in 11 attempts.

Just as it seemed his stock was on the rise within the Mariners system, injury struck and Choi missed the entire 2011 season with a strained back muscle.

He hit .298 with eight homers and 43 RBIs in 66 Midwest League games -- one classification lower and 12 months later in his return to baseball, and he spent two months of this past offseason Down Under working with the Adelaide Bite in the Australian Baseball League.

Healthy again, Choi, who throws right-handed but bats from the other side of the dish, is now back where he was three years ago. Making headlines once more in the California League, he's taken 36 months to go in a full 360-degree circle.

On Thursday, left fielder Jabari Blash went 2-for-5 with a two-run homer, three RBIs and two runs scored, while catcher Dowd and right fielder Rivers combined for four hits and four runs scored out of the middle of the lineup.

High Desert starter Brett Shankin (1-1) earned the win for the hosts. He gave up four runs -- two earned -- on eight hits while striking out four batters.

Garrett Gould (0-1) yielded eight runs -- six earned -- on eight hits and a walk over two-plus innings.

Ashley Marshall is a contributor to Follow him on Twitter @AshMarshallMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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