PHILADELPHIA – Outfielder Hyun Soo Kim didn’t say much Friday in his first public comments since being told the Orioles want to send him to the minors, but his body language offered plenty.
Kim looked at the floor when answering questions in Korean and kept his gaze away from reporters while his interpreter, Danny Lee, relayed the comments.
You could tell he was uncomfortable with the interview – and exceptionally uncomfortable with this whole situation. The last thing he seemingly wanted to be was the center of attention in a clubhouse after one pinch-hit at-bat.
But that’s what he was Friday because the roster picture is becoming clearer and he has a stipulation in the two-year, $7 million deal he signed that he can’t be sent to the minors without his permission. And he has not given his permission.
It’s causing a roster stalemate of sorts, but there was some movement after Friday’s game that makes it appear that Kim and outfielder Xavier Avery are fighting for the final bench spot – assuming that outfielder Nolan Reimold and reliever Vance Worley have made the team.
After the game, the Orioles announced eight roster moves: The reassignment to minor league camp of pitchers Pedro Beato and Todd Redmond, outfielder L.J. Hoes and infielders Paul Janish and Steve Tolleson; the optioning of catcher Francisco Pena; and the outrighting of pitchers Chaz Roe and Zach Phillips.
That brings the club’s roster to 28 with one non-roster invitee (Avery) still in camp; the club must get to 25 by Sunday at noon. Three players, Kevin Gausman, Brian Matusz and Jimmy Paredes, are expected to be placed on the disabled list.
The only slight surprise Friday is that Janish was sent out; he was believed to be on the bubble awaiting the Kim decision.
So that leaves 26 players vying for 25 spots — with the final two most likely Avery, who is on a minor-league deal and can be sent to Triple-A without being exposed to waivers, and Kim, who can refuse a minor league assignment and force his inclusion on the big league roster. His agency released a statement Thursday that he was not accepting a demotion, and he confirmed that, sort of, with his comments Friday night at Citizens Bank Park.
“Every decision was made through discussion with the agents,” Kim said through Lee. “So whatever (they say) is the same as my thoughts.”
No matter the uncomfortableness of the situation, Kim said his teammates seem to be supportive.
“Everyone around here is treating me the same way. I still feel I am part of the team. And everybody is still very nice to me,” Kim said. “And, whatever happens to me, I am trying to get ready for every situation that I can be in the game and in any kind of situation. So I can prepare for it.”
For the first time in almost a week, Kim received a plate appearance. It came in the ninth inning of the Orioles’ 8-7 win over the Philadelphia Phillies. With runners on first and second and one out in a tied game, Kim hit a pitch from Dalier Hinojosa to second for a force out, but he beat the throw to first to avoid a double play. Ryan Flaherty moved to third on the grounder and then scored the game-winner on a wild pitch.
Kim hadn’t played since hitting a fly out in the seventh inning Saturday.
He said it wasn’t easy to sit; it’s something the former Doosan Bears star isn’t accustomed to doing.
“It’s been quite a while. The feeling was very nice (to play), it has been a while,” Kim said. “It was very special to get an at-bat today. I wasn’t really expecting it. I wasn’t able to be there and be part of today’s game. I actually felt good about the end of the game.”
With that out, Kim ended his first exhibition season in the majors by going 8-for-45 (.178) in big league exhibition games.
Orioles manager Buck Showalter said he considered starting Kim, but instead started Pedro Alvarez at designated hitter. Most of Showalter’s starters came out of the game after a rain delay before the bottom of the third, but Alvarez stayed in the lineup until Kim pinch-hit for him in the ninth. Getting one at-bat really doesn’t change much in Showalter’s eyes. He’s still waiting for a resolution with Kim.
“I wanted to at least get him one at-bat. He’s working hard,” Showalter said. “Regardless of what’s going on with his situation, I do have a heart. So you listen to things and you still do what your heart tells you sometimes.”
For his part, Kim would discuss his exact thoughts on his situation.
“To talk about the actual fairness or any kind of decision that the organization is making, I’m not going to talk about which one is right or which one is wrong. I’m not going to make any comments,” he said. “All I want to do is be a good baseball player who gets ready every time whenever for whoever needs me so I can be there to play.”