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Keeping Hyun Soo Kim puts Orioles, Buck Showalter in awkward situation

"I'm very happy to be on the roster, and I will try my best to make it up to the coaching staff and organization [for giving me] the chance," Kim said through interpreter Danny Lee. (Kevin Richardson/Baltimore Sun video)

Now that the Orioles have made the questionable decision to keep Korean outfielder Hyun Soo Kim on the 25-man Opening Day roster, the focus shifts from whether Kim would make the team to how it will use him.

The front office painted itself into this corner when it allowed Kim the option to reject a minor league assignment and now manager Buck Showalter is left to try and make the best of this strange situation.

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Kim clearly did not do anything in spring training to win regular playing time, but since he's going to be part of the major league bench, Showalter indicated before the O's final preseason workout he will try to find opportunities to play him.

It became obvious as spring wore on that Showalter did not believe Kim was one of his best 25 players. Executive vice president Dan Duquette even said last week that Kim was not going to be on the 25-man roster.

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Duquette said on Sunday that he was pleased with the makeup of the Opening Day roster while making it clear that Kim is on it because he chose not to go along with the club's desire for him to go down to Triple-A Norfolk.

"Kim's been on the roster and we asked him to take some more time to get the at-bats he needed to show the form he showed in international competition," Duquette said. "It was his option and we asked for his consent because we thought that was the best way to prepare him. He needed more time to transition, (but) he didn't see it that way."

It will be hard to justify playing Kim ahead of Rule 5 draftee Joey Rickard or veteran Nolan Reimold. Rickard was one of the most productive players in the Grapefruit League and Reimold came on very strong at the end of spring training.

"That's up to Buck,'' Duquette said. "We'll have to wait and see how that develops."

The situation could become increasingly uncomfortable if Rickard continues to play so well that Kim cannot get onto the field for any appreciable opportunity to show he belongs on the major league roster.

The Orioles do not want to embarrass Kim because of the impact that might have on their future attempts to recruit Korean players. They also cannot blame him for sticking to the letter of his contract when they asked him to accept a minor league assignment he had every right to reject.

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