South Korean OF Hyun Soo Kim finally excels for Orioles

Publish date:

BALTIMORE (AP) Hyun Soo Kim didn't really care for the view from the dugout during his first six weeks in the major leagues.

Turns out, it was the best place for him to be.

Following an outstanding run in the Korean Baseball Organization, Kim began his career with the Baltimore Orioles as the 25th man on the roster. He had only 15 at-bats in April and played in just nine games through May 13.

It could have been worse. After Kim hit .178 in spring training, the Orioles wanted to send him to the minor leagues before opening day. As part of his two-year, $7 million contract, Kim had the right to reject the assignment.

And that's what he did.

So after batting .318 with 771 RBIs over 10 seasons in South Korea, the 28-year-old rookie received a tough baseball lesson in baseball.

''I thought I knew a lot about the major leagues,'' Kim said through a translator. ''There were a lot of things that I thought were going to be a certain way. It was different than I expected. I learned a lot by watching the games, and I got acclimated to major league baseball by watching.''

Kim began to get more playing time after Rule 5 rookie outfielder Joey Rickard began slumping. Now, Kim is a regular in the starting lineup and will stay there until his .367 batting average (through Thursday) radically changes.

''After a while, you go, `Until this guy's not hitting .380 or .400, we probably need to run him out there,''' Baltimore manager Buck Showalter said, adding, ''We're not sure what we have or don't have here.''

Back in March, Showalter figured the best way to get Kim accustomed to big league baseball was to play him every day. Now, the long-time manager is second-guessing himself.

''In some ways, it might have been good for him to step back and watch the game here,'' Showalter said. ''I think he might have got a good feel for it. We didn't do that in spring training. He just played every game, every at-bat, and I think sometimes it was a little overwhelming for him.''

Orioles center fielder Adam Jones did a little research before Kim arrived in camp. He knew the 6-foot-2, 210-pounder respected the game and had a knack for getting on base.

''He's a professional,'' Jones said. ''I saw his numbers, spoke to people who played against him. So I knew he was a good player. I know a lot of people wrote him off, but he kept working and maintained a positive attitude. And now, look what you've got.''

In addition to owning the best batting average on the team and playing errorless ball in the field, Kim hit his first home run last Sunday in a win over Cleveland.

''This is the player the Orioles thought they were going after - a contributor, a guy that gets on base, puts the barrel on the ball,'' Orioles right fielder Mark Trumbo said. ''And he's played very good defense in left field, too.''

It took a little time, but the wait was worth it.

''Now I'm more comfortable,'' Kim said, ''and this feels like the baseball I used to play.''

The language barrier is being broken down bit by bit, but the Orioles don't need to chit-chat with Kim to know how hard he worked to be part of the team.

''His understanding of the language is significantly better than it was even a couple of weeks ago,'' Trumbo said. ''He has a new phrase almost daily that will catch you off guard. It shows that he's putting in a ton of work behind the scenes. That's what the best players do - they pick up the language and learn how to adapt. That's what you're seeing.''