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.
[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.
"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."