SARASOTA, FLA. — As South Korean outfielder Hyun Soo Kim's spring training hitless streak continues to grow, the pressure continues to mount for the Orioles' projected starting left fielder.
Kim went 0-for-2 in the Orioles' 3-0 home loss to the Minnesota Twins on Monday, smacking two sharply hit grounders right at defenders. After signing a two-year, $7-million deal with the Orioles in the offseason, Kim is hitless in 18 at-bats during spring training.
The 28-year-old outfielder has played in six of the team's eight Grapefruit League games. Most of those games were on the road so he was one of the only projected starters in the lineup, which meant he was hitting in the top or middle of the order batting around reserves.
In Monday's game -- with most of the Orioles starters playing at home -- Kim batted seventh, which is probably where he's most likely to slot during the regular season.
Following a 0-for-3 day on Saturday afternoon, Kim admitted he was pressing, saying that he didn't feel like he was playing like himself. Through his translator, he compared himself to a little kid playing the game for the first time.
On Monday, he hit the ball sharply in both at-bats. In his second at-bat, he worked the count full before grounding out to second base. Slowly, it looks like he's starting to get his timing, which he said over the weekend has been a struggle.
"The little added consistency of the fastball velocity is one of the things that you get challenged with," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "And [there are] a lot of guys, Americans, who have played in the States and the big leagues for a lot of years and at-bats who have that issue, too. So I don't think it's an issue with him.
"I just think he's cheating a little bit on the fastball, which makes him susceptible to the breaking ball, which is something that he's been good with in the past. When you see that, you know guys are rushing and trying to make it happen quickly."
As one of the best hitters in South Korea for the past decade, Kim was known for being a patient hitter, but he has yet to draw a walk this spring, which is another sign he's being a little jumpy at the plate.
Showalter said the club has continued to reassure Kim throughout his struggles.
"We all do," Showalter said. "We have. It's not like we haven't. Yeah, sure. Everybody's trying to make his path easy. He's got to cooperate a little bit. He will. It's tough for him. You try to have some empathy for it, but there's a lot of time. He'll get it going."
What the team can't really gather is the pressure that Kim faces to perform. About 10 South Korean reporters -- a group that changes every day -- follow his every move. They interview him after every game, and before Monday's game was over -- he left before the top of the eighth inning -- Kim was already doing another interview.
"You can tell his reactions when he hits the ball hard and they catch it," Showalter said. "You guys ask him now and then. What do you think the other group of media is asking him every day? It's 3 o'clock in the morning back there. I'm sure they tape the game and watch it during breakfast. … I try to understand that. But we've got a lot of time. He'll get it going at some point.
"It's learning every day. I'm sure there's something that [happens] in his life here in the States every day that's new to him, all the new things that are going on, but there have been a lot of guys who have gone through that. The thing that allows you to make an easier transition is being able to perform at this level."