Oh adjusting to life in US, Majors

Korean right-hander says big league camp is different, but he loves it

Oh adjusting to life in US, Majors

JUPITER, Fla. -- After spending the past week acclimating himself to a new culture and country, South Korean pitcher Seung Hwan Oh is now adapting to a Spring Training program that differs from the one he followed in Asia.

Conditioned for a camp that features an earlier start date and many more pitches thrown, Oh took the mound on Friday for his first mound work in Major League camp. He threw about 30 pitches, far fewer than the 100-150 pitches he estimates he threw during such bullpen sessions while getting ready for the season in Japan or Korea.

The structure of spring has struck him as different, too.

"It's very different," said Oh, speaking through team interpreter Eugene Koo. "In Japan and Korea, it's all about the team, together, doing something, even in Spring Training. When we run, we do it all together. Here, we're kind of on our own pace and freestyle. But I love it here."

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That contrast in preparation means that Oh arrived further along in his throwing program than most pitchers. The Cardinals have advised him to take his time in building up arm strength, but they also don't want to interfere with a routine that has long worked for the right-hander. Before signing with the Cardinals in January, Oh established himself as one of the most dominant closers in Korean baseball history.

"I'm actually feeling very good and at the pace that I want to be," Oh said. "I've been getting ready since winter. Right now I'm feeling good."

Since arriving to Florida a week ago, Oh has begun to pick up some English words and phrases. Some of his teammates are reciprocating the effort. And to help him feel more at home, the Cardinals' team chef is also preparing kimchi, a traditional Korean dish, for him.

What Oh isn't yet sure he'll bring with him are his nicknames. Tabbed as Stone Buddha and The Final Boss by fans in Asia, Oh said he'd welcome new suggestions.

"If the fans of Cardinals nation give me a new nickname," he said, "that'd be awesome."

Worth noting

• Manager Mike Matheny has given Carlos Martinez a leadership role in camp by selecting him as a group leader for these early workouts. The Cardinals split their 31 healthy pitchers into eight groups, each of which has a designated leader. Martinez heads a group that includes Jordan Walden, Jeremy Hefner and Dean Kiekhefer.

"I think that's just part of the growth -- having more responsibility," Matheny explained. "We have the opportunity now for him to take that mentality that he is no longer the kid just taking. It's time to give. It's time to push. I'm excited to watch him take advantage of that."

• Walden, who was limited to 12 appearances in 2015, threw his first side session on Friday following a winter of rehab work. Walden said the mound session was his seventh since returning to the mound in January.

Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB, like her Facebook page Jenifer Langosch for Cardinals.com and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.