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Orioles' Buck Showalter laments another 'tough stretch' out of the lineup for Hyun Soo Kim

The first month of this season for Hyun Soo Kim has been an improvement over the Orioles outfielder's April from 2016, when he got a scant 17 plate appearances and was glued to the bench for games at a time. But not by much.

The left-handed-hitting Kim is in the middle of another extended absence from the Orioles lineup, sitting on Saturday against knuckleballer Steven Wright and likely on the bench the whole series with the Boston Red Sox throwing left-handers Drew Pomeranz on Friday and Eduardo Rodriguez on Sunday.

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Kim previously sat four straight games earlier this month, and has just 22 plate appearances on the young season. Manager Buck Showalter insists Kim will have his time to play — the Orioles face three right-handed pitchers against the Tampa Bay Rays beginning Monday — but said there's not much he can do to change the circumstances.

"We're not going to change the construction of the roster," Showalter said. "We're pretty happy with the way it's kind of fit, especially when we get Joey [Rickard] back, we're able to do a lot of things we weren't able to do last year. That includes Kim.

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"He'll be there. He'll have plenty of opportunities. I'm trying to look at the big picture here, and I think he trusts us, too. But he'll be ready. Anytime I've gone by the cage the last two days, he's working on some things that he doesn't feel quite right about. You've got to remember what went on in April last year. It took a while for him to kind of get going."

Kim is having a slow start, perhaps owed to the inconsistent playing time, and is batting .238 with a .558 OPS. Last year, once he earned a long stretch of playing time, he showed the form that made the Orioles target him out of South Korea to begin with. He hit .302/.382/.420 and provided the team with on-base capability it lacked elsewhere.

And even as they're mired in an uneven offensive stretch with nine runs in four games, Kim's patience seemingly isn't as valued as the glove and speed of Craig Gentry in left field instead. Showalter said earlier in the year that Gentry's legs off the bench made the Orioles a more dangerous and dynamic team, but he has opted to start him six times now — the same amount of starts Kim has received.

The manager has continually chalked it up to circumstances. By the end of this series, the Orioles will have faced eight left-handed starters and Wright twice, with seven traditional right-handed opposing starters.

"That's part of it," Showalter said. "We're also hitting a stretch here where the matchups play in our favor one way versus the other. I've talked to him and I've seen him with the knuckleball. Actually, Wright is almost a reverse-split guy, too. Obviously, we gain the defense and I'm hoping Craig — he was on base three times last night -- he puts a lot of pressure on the pitcher, something that we'd like to be able to do more. He made a heck of a play down there down the left-field line. I know it's kind of one of those things that doesn't show up analytically.

"I think it's more we're just going through a period where the matchups are such, especially in our division. Boston has got all these left-handers, we seem to catch [J.A.] Happ all the time, and we caught a couple other ones. I know we're getting ready to face three right-handers against Tampa. This will pass. It's April, and he's going to get an opportunity to continue to make contributions for us. But it's a tough stretch for him."

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