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Three-hit game not enough for O's Kim Hyun-soo to come off bench

All Headlines 17:22 May 02, 2016

SEOUL, May 2 (Yonhap) -- A three-hit game was apparently not enough for South Korean outfielder Kim Hyun-soo to come off the bench for the Baltimore Orioles Sunday, though his improving play is giving his manager a happy dilemma.

A day after hitting his first major league double as part of a 3-for-4 day at the plate, Kim watched the O's 7-1 loss to the Chicago White Sox at Oriole Park at Camden Yards.

Granted, the White Sox started All-Star left-hander Chris Sale -- who improved to 6-0 with a 1.66 ERA after limiting Baltimore to one earned run in 5 1/3 innings Sunday -- and the conventional wisdom had it that the left-handed hitting Kim would have a tough time against the southpaw. Left-handed hitters are now batting .185 against Sale.

Yet even when the White Sox went to the bullpen early and sent out three right-handed relievers, manager Buck Showalter kept Kim firmly on the bench.

Kim has only played in six out of the club's 23 games so far. He has yet to face a left-handed pitcher this season.

Kim's struggles in the early days of his first major league season have been well-documented. The former Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) All-Star signed a two-year deal as a free agent last December, and seemed all but assured of a spot in the Orioles' lineup that badly needed a left-handed bat. The career .318 hitter in the KBO, however, had a miserable spring training, batting only .178 (8-for-45) with no extra-base hits.

Showalter and general manager Dan Duquette openly called on Kim to accept an assignment to the minors, but Kim exercised his contractual rights to refuse it and made the team's 25-man Opening Day roster.

Joey Rickard, a career minor leaguer and Rule 5 pick, outperformed Kim in spring and maintained his momentum into the regular season. After batting .397 in spring to hit his way into the lineup as the regular left fielder, Rickard hit safely in 13 of his first 14 games and batted .350 in that stretch.

Though Rickard has cooled off -- he's batting .278 through Sunday -- Showalter hasn't yet been compelled to move him out of the lineup in favor of Kim.

And although Kim batted a solid .296 against the left-handers in the KBO compared to .332 against the righties, Showalter said he's still trying to figure out how he'll get Kim into the lineup.

"You get an idea about guys, kind of who they might match up against well initially," Showalter told local broadcaster CSN Mid-Atlantic's website. "I know he's had some good at-bats off certain guys. We'll see if he can go to the next level against some other guys."

Showalter added that he feels Kim has made the most of his limited opportunities so far.

"I think Kim's benefitted a little bit by being able to step back and watch something unfold that he didn't know what was going to happen, the stadiums, the fields, the pitchers, all the things we do differently here," the manager said.

jeeho@yna.co.kr
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