Baseball Crank
Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
March 20, 2005
BASEBALL: The Missing Submariner

Tony Massarotti of the Boston Herald has a long profile today of Byung-Hyun Kim, not that there's any real information about why he hasn't been pitching - his problems increasingly seem to be mental rather than physical:

"It's a mystery. It has us totally befuddled," said Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein. "There's no physical problem. I just don't think he's responded to the pressure of playing in Boston and I take responsibility for that." Said Sox manager Terry Francona when asked if the 26-year-old Kim could resurrect his career: "I think he can do it. I'm not sure he wants to do it here."

Yet, the results have clearly been physical:

"He was a prodigious worker. In fact, it was an issue with us," [Joe] Garagiola [Jr.] said. "Kim would throw all the time. We'd finish a game and you'd hear this THUMP, thump, thump and he would be throwing in the cage." This spring, finally, Red Sox officials have had success in getting Kim to back off his workouts. Sox officials believe his fastball touched 90-91 mph in side sessions before exhibition games began, but Kim was clocked between 84-86 mph in the 2 2/3 innings he pitched prior to coming down with the flu. The reason for the drop in velocity? That, too, remains a mystery. Kim is healthy. He is 26. But some Sox officials believe that the demands of pitching in a baseball-obsessed town like Boston has completely overwhelmed the pitcher, whom most everyone believes is sensitive, delicate, even fragile.

[snip]

[B]y the middle of last season, Kim was a lost cause. His velocity was down considerably -- Sox officials attribute this largely to Kim's unhappiness -- and his desire to play in Boston was destroyed. Kim went 5-6 with a 5.34 ERA at Triple-A Pawtucket and finished 2-1 with a 6.23 ERA for the Sox, and there wasn't a team in baseball that would touch him and the balance of his $10 million contract over the winter.

For what it's worth, Kim returned to pitch a single perfect inning and strike out one today against the Pirates. It's been reported that the Mets are interested in Kim, and of course I've always been a huge fan of sidearmers as well as picking up guys who have had great K numbers, decent control, and are still young and healthy. That said, the Sox are looking for someone to eat Kim's contract, and that could be tough to take, plus the Mets aren't really a low-pressure environment, although they do have a number of other players from Asia, including the Korean Jae Seo if he ever makes the roster. Perhaps more importantly, there's a huge Korean community in Queens, centered in Flushing (large sections of which look like an Asian city), and perhaps Kim would feel more at home here and get to know more people outside of the game.

UPDATE: Gordon Edes of the Globe on Kim's outing on Sunday:

"He was at 84 miles an hour," said one major league scout. "I thought my [radar] gun was stuck. He might have touched 85. He's just a shadow of the pitcher he was in Arizona. This is a guy who threw in the 90s when he was in Arizona, and his slider had incredible movement. Now, his slider is flat."
Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:28 PM | Baseball 2005 | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)
Comments

A couple of nice deli sandwiches and BYK is all yours. I'm sure he'll be great in NY. He really showed it the last time he was there as a Diamondback.

Posted by: jim at March 20, 2005 8:21 PM

I'm not ready to give up on the guy because he threw two bad pitches four years ago.

Posted by: The Crank at March 20, 2005 10:37 PM

Send him to the Dodgers. Jim Colborn'll have him straightened out, pitching a 2.70 ERA half-season, and DePo will flip him to Tampa Bay for their entire minor league system.

Posted by: Rob McMillin at March 21, 2005 12:48 AM

Just don't have your matches out around the guy. He's a gas can. Whether it is because he became totally psyched out, people figured out his shtick or he just doesn't have it anymore I do not know. I do know he can't get big league guys out on a regular basis right now. Boston's got a pretty good pitching coach and staff and they could not bail the guy out. Hell they were able to get the most out of Derek Lowe who is great and I love him but he operates on the edge mentally most of the time. I had great hopes for BYK when we got him (especially since it was when the bullpen was a disaster area) but he just could not cut the mustard. Any takers are welcome to him and his giant salary.

Posted by: jim at March 21, 2005 11:47 AM

The Braves will pick him up near the end of the year. Mazzone will work with him and he'll be back up to 90+ mph and be the replacement for Smoltz.

Hmm, anyone read much about that scandal in South Korea? Baseball players were paying some guy to help them doctor their medical reports to show that they had kidney ailments. With that, they wouldn't have to serve the mandatory military service that all males have to do.

American players are trying to get stuff out of their urine; Korean players are trying to get stuff INTO their urine.

Ain't life a hoot?

SMG

Posted by: SteveMG at March 21, 2005 7:50 PM
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