Kim stands out

Af­ter re­fus­ing as­sign­ment to mi­nors, he emerges as pil­lar

Baltimore Sun - - FRONT PAGE - By Ed­uardo A. Encina eencina@balt­sun.com twit­ter.com/Ed­dieInTheYard

Hyun Soo Kim emerged as a pil­lar in his rookie year af­ter he re­fused an as­sign­ment to the mi­nors at the be­gin­ning of the sea­son. Tues­day night, he started in left field, bat­ted sec­ond and went 0-for-4.

TORONTO — A sea­son that be­gan with such dif­fi­culty for Ori­oles out­fielder Hyun Soo Kim landed him in the play­offs in his first year in the ma­jor leagues, start­ing in left field and bat­ting sec­ond in Tues­day night’s Amer­i­can League wild-card game.

Half a world away in Kim’s na­tive South Korea, fans tuned in to watch at 9 a.m.

The Ori­oles might have Kim to thank for be­ing in the post­sea­son. Last Wed­nes­day night, his ninth-in­ning, pinch-hit two-run homer sent the Ori­oles to a hu­mon­gous 3-2 win over the Toronto Blue Jays — a vic­tory they’d need to clinch a play­off berth. The win pro­pelled the Ori­oles to series wins in Toronto and New York to end the sea­son, seal­ing a trip to the post­sea­son.

“I want to make sure I tell him he’s on the play­off ros­ter, and I can’t as­sume that he knows that,” man­ager Buck Showal­ter said. “He may think af­ter not get­ting four hits yes­ter­day we don’t like him or some­thing. You can’t as­sume any­thing with that, and I think he ap­pre­ci­ates that.”

Kim’s jour­ney this sea­son has been re­mark­able. He was sup­posed to be the team’s start­ing left fielder Open­ing Day, and he was the starter against right-handed starters by sea­son’s end, but so much hap­pened in be­tween. He strug­gled might­ily in spring train­ing, go­ing hit­less in his first 23 at-bats. The Ori­oles at­tempted to send him to the mi­nors to start the sea­son, but a clause in his con­tract al­lowed him to refuse the as­sign­ment.

“I think they all gave him some em­pa­thy about the chal­lenges that he was fac­ing com­ing over here for the first time,” Showal­ter said. “I kept telling him, all the pres­sure that was on him, there are other Korean play­ers over there that want him to do well so their path is eas­ier. They’re watching our games at 8 in the morn­ing and liv­ing and dy­ing on ev­ery­thing he does. I’m sure there’s prob­a­bly some head­lines and sto­ry­lines over there in Seoul that I’m prob­a­bly glad I didn’t read. You know, the old man­ager not play­ing him cer­tain times.”

By the end of the year, Kim emerged as the team’s most pa­tient hit­ter, some­thing needed in an Ori­oles lineup full of free swingers. His .382 on-base per­cent­age led the club, and even though he didn’t play much against left-han­ders down the stretch, Showal­ter val­ued him off the bench for mo­ments like last Wed­nes­day’s.

“The fact that it was a long jour­ney, I just had to re­al­ize there were a lot of strug­gles I’ve had to go through and fi­nally I was able to over­come [those] and en­joy them with myteam­mates,” Kim said through trans­la­tor Danny Lee. “I’m re­ally happy and ex­cited that I get to go to the play­offs in my first year with a team that was so sup­port­ive of me from the be­gin­ning. I ex­pected this team to be play­ing in Oc­to­ber. I knew this was go­ing to be a great team this year, so I was ex­pect­ing some­thing more than the reg­u­lar sea­son.”

Man­fred “re­signed” to let­ting MASN lit­i­ga­tion play out: Ma­jor League Base­ball com­mis­sioner Rob Man­fred spoke to re­porters on a va­ri­ety of top­ics be­fore Tues­day’s game. Among them, Man­fred said he was “re­signed” to al­low­ing the cur­rent lit­i­ga­tion over broad­cast rights fees the Ori­oles-owned Mid-At­lantic Sports Net­work should owe the Wash­ing­ton Na­tion­als.

The case went to court two years ago when MASNand the Ori­oles chal­lenged the de­ci­sion of an MLB ar­bi­tra­tion panel to award the Na­tion­als $60 mil­lion per year in rights fees. MASN and the Ori­oles ar­gued the panel was bi­ased and was in­flu­enced by league of­fi­cials.

In July, the New York Supreme Court freed MASN from re­turn­ing to the MLB ar­bi­tra­tion panel to set­tle the dis­pute. Since then, MASN has been seek­ing a new ar­bi­tra­tion hear­ing to be con­ducted by a panel with no con­nec­tions to MLB.

“You know, I feel about it how I feel about lit­i­ga­tion in gen­eral,” Man­fred said. “It’s out of your hands is how I feel about it. You kind of think you know where it’s headed, but for­tu­nately, it’s some­body else who is driv­ing the boat. I guess I would say I am at this point re­signed to the idea that the lit­i­ga­tion process is go­ing to have to play out a lit­tle fur­ther be­fore any­thing pos­i­tive can hap­pen.

“I think it is a good ex­am­ple of why in gen­eral our rules pro­hibit lit­i­ga­tion be­tween clubs. Once you’re into that court sys­tem, some­times it’s hard to find your way out.”

Be­hind Showal­ter’s ros­ter: In a one-game win­ner-take-all play­off for­mat, Showal­ter se­lected a lineup stacked with re­liev­ers and bench play­ers that could help him man­age the game through­out.

Among the play­ers on the Ori­oles’ 25-man wild-card ros­ter was rookie first base­man-des­ig­nated hit­ter Trey Mancini, who has played in just five ma­jor league games af­ter join­ing the team in midSeptem­ber af­ter Steve Pearce’s sea­so­nend­ing el­bow in­jury.

“Trey gives us, we think, a weapon off the bench against a left-handed pitcher,” Showal­ter said. “You might have to make two moves to get the matchup you want. That’s about it.”

All four of Mancini’s starts came against left-handed pitch­ers. He went 4-for-10 with three homers against lefties.

Showal­ter car­ried 10 pitch­ers, in­clud­ing start­ing pitch­ers Ubaldo Jimenez and Dylan Bundy, who were avail­able out of the bullpen. The Ori­oles had two lefty sit­u­a­tional re­liev­ers — Don­nie Hart and Brian Duensing. Duensing made just 14 ap­pear­ances dur­ing the reg­u­lar sea­son, as he was on the dis­abled list for 11 weeks af­ter el­bow surgery. He didn’t al­low a hit or run over his last five out­ings of the reg­u­lar sea­son (42⁄ in­nings). 3

“We felt like there might be some­thing matchup-wise there, and we also feel like he can turn some switch-hit­ters around,” Showal­ter said. “We also feel like he’s been throw­ing the ball real well since he came off hav­ing the bone chips re­moved.”

The most no­table ab­sence from the 25-man ros­ter was re­liever Vance Wor­ley, who has pro­vided the club with valu­able length for most of the sea­son.

“There’s so many fac­tors that go into it, and we as a coach­ing staff kind of look down at it, with­out par­a­lyz­ing your­self through anal­y­sis,” Showal­ter said. “I mean, there’s no per­fect [ros­ter]. It’s tough, though. I hate telling Wor­ley that he’s not — we wouldn’t be here with­out the job that he’s done, and it’s one game.”

Teams can reshuf­fle their ros­ters be­fore the Amer­i­can League Di­vi­sion Series, but be­cause this round is just one game, Showal­ter went with a ros­ter that al­lowed him to ben­e­fit from matchups.

Around the horn: In re­gards to whether this off­sea­son would op­er­ate with rules of the cur­rent Col­lec­tive Bar­gain­ing Agree­ment — in­clud­ing the ex­is­tence of qual­i­fy­ing of­fers for free agency, which is a topic that is one of the play­ers union’s pri­or­i­ties — Man­fred said he hoped a new agree­ment would be agreed upon be­fore the freeagency pe­riod starts shortly af­ter the World Series. If qual­i­fy­ing of­fers re­main, the Ori­oles would have to con­sider ex­tend­ing them to out­fielder Mark Trumbo and catcher Matt Wi­eters. … Man­fred said it’s un­likely MLB will pur­sue an­other ex­hi­bi­tion game in Cuba next spring with the World Base­ball Clas­sic be­ing played and the Cuban na­tional team play­ing in it. The Ori­oles have long ex­pressed an in­ter­est in re­turn­ing to Cuba. … Man­fred said that be­fore ex­pan­sion is con­sid­ered, the new CBA must be com­pleted and sta­dium prob­lems in St. Peters­burg, Fla., and Oak­land must be re­solved.

MARK BLINCH/AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

A beer can thrown from the stands sails onto the field as Hyun Soo Kim gets un­der a fly ball in the sev­enth in­ning. Kim made the catch, but the in­ci­dent de­layed the game as in­censed Ori­oles man­ager Buck Showal­ter stormed onto the field to protest.

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