Hyun Soo Kim is just four spring training starts into his major league career, but after his hitless streak increased to 13 at-bats in the Orioles’ 13-2 road split-squad loss to the Minnesota Twins, the South Korean outfielder conceded he feels like he's pressing.
“Defensively and offensively, I don’t feel like I’m being myself,” Kim said through interpreter Danny Lee after going 0-for-4 Saturday. “Maybe I’m trying to show too much. Maybe I’m trying to play like I did before too much. I feel a little bit like I’m playing like a little kid who just got into playing baseball. I’m trying to get used to it and trying to go farther from there.”
Kim, who signed a two-year, $7 million deal with the Orioles this offseason to be the team’s starting left fielder, still has plenty of time to make the necessary adjustments to the big league game. He is making contact – he has only one strikeout in his 13 at-bats – and has hit the ball sharply a few times. In his first at-bat Saturday, he hit a rocket line drive right to Twins second baseman Brian Dozier. But on the stat sheet, he has nothing to show for it.
“He’s hit three or four balls pretty sharply,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. “I don’t think he’s ever looked uncomfortable. This guy’s had a lot of at-bats against good pitching and he will be what he is at some point. It hasn’t shown up statistically for him. Another way to look at it is that he gets it all out of his system here.”
The fact that the number of South Korean reporters on hand for Saturday’s game was doubled because Kim was playing against fellow South Korean Byung Ho Park for the first time as major leaguers magnified the situation.
“I’m sure this is a huge day back in Korea and you have to be sensitive to that,” Showalter said before the game.
Kim talked to Park -- who the Orioles also pursued, placing a bid on him before the Twins won negotiating rights by paying a $12.85 million posting fee -- before the game and said the two have been in contact about making their transition to the majors.
“It was good seeing him today,” Park said through interpreter J.D. Kim. “Before the game, he came to the dugout and said hello. It’s nice to be able to see him down here. We try to stay in touch. We’re both new here, so I wish him the best of luck.”
Said Kim: “He seems like he’s doing [well]. Now all that’s remaining is myself, who [still] has to do well.”
Kim knows that getting his first hit will help, but he said he feels like he’s putting pressure on himself to perform well.
“I don’t necessarily need a hit to be relieved of all these pressures, but what I am trying to do is get the right swing and the right timing that will actually give me [the] satisfaction of how I am doing right now. … It’s the whole mechanism. The swing, everything is behind. It feels like I’m falling behind, so I’m trying to get back on track.”
Kim also struggled in the field Saturday, unable to come up with Eduardo Escobar’s sinking line drive to left field, a play that helped fuel the Twins’ eight-run sixth inning. The hit was ruled a double, but it was a play that good corner outfielders make.
Showalter said that the club is trying to take that pressure off Kim. Part of that is making sure the Orioles' message isn’t lost in translation. Showalter said that Kim thought the team was mad at him because he was being removed from games in the fifth inning.
“Over there, they play nine inning for three months,” Showalter said. “[Shortstop] J.J. [Hardy] and the guys were explaining to him, ‘No, here we do things in a progression.’ He thought we were all [mad] at him. I told him Chris Davis was 0-for-15 with 10 strikeouts last year. I told Chris, 'I’m not sure, that’s probably wrong.' But it’s OK.”
Around the horn
Minor league right-hander Tanner Scott pitched a scoreless eighth inning in Saturday's day road game, allowing one hit and walking one in his first major league spring training game. … Right-hander Mike Wright will make his second spring start in Sunday’s road game against the Boston Red Sox in Fort Myers. Right-hander Clay Buchholz will start for the Red Sox.