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Orioles notebook: In sign of progress, Hyun Soo Kim gets start vs. Mariners left-hander

Hyun Soo Kim rounds the bases, past Mariners first baseman Dae-Ho Lee, after hitting a solo home run in the seventh inning Thursday night.
Hyun Soo Kim rounds the bases, past Mariners first baseman Dae-Ho Lee, after hitting a solo home run in the seventh inning Thursday night. (Otto Greule Jr / Getty Images)

In the Orioles' 79th game of the season, and left fielder Hyun Soo Kim's 32nd start, he finally got a chance to show he could handle a left-handed starting pitcher. His inclusion in the lineup Friday night under such circumstances could signal a change in the outfield pecking order for the Orioles, even when it comes to the bench.

Such is Kim's progress that, facing a left-hander in Seattle Mariners starter Wade LeBlanc, Orioles manager Buck Showalter still slotted him into the lineup. But it's just as much for Kim's .344 batting average as it is his defensive improvements, Showalter said.

"He's [a] pretty sure-handed guy, throws accurately and gets rid of the ball quick," Showalter said. "He's really engaged in defense. I'm surprised, and happy with it compared to what people thought early on in the spring. But I was saying at the time, it's just so hard to judge."

When confidence in the Orioles' South Korean signing was lowest — including Showalter's — Kim's defense was among the most prominent reasons. That he would start against a left-hander, even one left-handed batters have hit well, in spacious Safeco Field would have seemed far-fetched.

Joey Rickard, another player Showalter has said is playing better defensively, started in right field after the big outfield proved difficult for Mark Trumbo to handle Thursday.

Gone in this equation is reserve outfielder Nolan Reimold, whose right-handed bat and defense were seen as assets for the Orioles this season. But Reimold has cooled off considerably of late — he hit .211 in June to drop his average to .271 — and was left on the bench against LeBlanc.

Reimold could return to the lineup soon, with left-hander James Paxton scheduled to start Saturday and rookie Julio Urias scheduled to pitch for the Los Angeles Dodgers when the Orioles visit next week.

Roe ready to contribute: Reliever Chaz Roe joined the Orioles on Thursday evening in Seattle, ready to contribute to a bullpen in flux thanks to a cut fastball he added to his repertoire at Triple-A Norfolk.

"I just went down there and worked on a few things," said Roe, who was outrighted in spring training. "I struggled early getting lefties out, so I started throwing a cutter, and it's helped me out a lot. I'm able to keep it in the zone a lot more. That was a big pitch for me."

Roe primarily worked with a slower slider and his fastball last year, when he posted two lights-out months before slowing in the final two months of the season. The cutter wasn't part of the equation.

"I didn't use it at all last year," Roe said. "I just kind of messed with it a little bit earlier this year. Lefties started hitting me pretty well, and a slider just helps me — it's just a harder slider in the zone."

Roe had a 15-appearance scoreless streak for the Tides and 2.39 ERA at the time of his addition to the Orioles roster.

"I love this organization," Roe said. "I love the people here. The team's unbelievable, so I hoped I'd get the opportunity to come back up here and help these guys out."

Around the horn: Showalter said reliever Darren O'Day (hamstring strain) "felt pretty good today," though he didn't know when he would take another bullpen session. "That's a good sign," Showalter said. "He's not going backward. He's just not going forward." … The Orioles watched, enthralled, as the Toronto Blue Jays and Cleveland Indians played into the 19th inning Friday, with Toronto using two position players to pitch. Showalter said he'd never divulge who the Orioles' own emergency option is. He said: "If the wheels haven't already been turned, you're not ready for that already. … I hope it doesn't happen."

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