SEOUL, April 4 (Korea Bizwire) – After much hoopla over his playing status, South Korean outfielder Kim Hyun-soo made the Baltimore Orioles‘ Opening Day roster.
Kim got the final outfield spots, along with Nolan Reimold, on the roster announced Sunday as the Orioles are set to open their 2016 season against the Minnesota Twins the following day at Oriole Park at Camden Yards.
The decision puts an end to days of speculation over Kim’s destination to start the season. After signing a two-year, US$7 million free agent deal last December, Kim had a terrible spring training, starting 0-for-23 and ending with a .178 batting average.
His struggles prompted the management to declare publicly Kim wouldn’t make the 25-man roster to start the season. Both Dan Duquette, executive vice president of baseball operations, and manager Buck Showalter said they’d prefer that Kim spend some time in the minors.
Yet Kim last week exercised his contractual right to refuse an assignment to the minors, giving the Orioles only two options — keep him on the team or release him outright while eating up his $7 million salary.
In the end, the O’s stuck with the 28-year-old All-Star from Korea. Kim, who played little in the final stretch of spring training, said he understood the front office had a job to do.
“The management has done what they had to do,” Kim was quoted as saying on MLB.com. “There’s nothing that I have feelings about that, and I’m going to try to do whatever I have been doing here before, to show the fans and others who have been watching me what I can do.”
Kim was outplayed by Rule 5 Draft pick Joey Rickard, a career minor leaguer who batted .397 in 28 Grapefruit League games. Rickard is expected to start in left field over Kim, but the South Korean said he could live with it, as long as he could use the time on the bench to watch and learn.
“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. “I’m just trying to do my best to stay on the team.”
Showalter, who kept Kim on the bench late in spring training while the player remained in limbo, said he felt the outfielder was “ready to go.”
“I’m going to use everybody,” said Showalter, who used 11 players in left field last season. “And I think he has a chance to contribute. We will figure that out as we go, how that’s going to be.”
Duquette said the potentially awkward situation between the Orioles and Kim “are all management issues.”
“There’s also player decisions that enter into it,” he added. “But at the end of the day, we have 24 other players on the team and the 24 other players are going to do everything they can to have the best team that we can have here, and I’m sure Kim will do the same.
“The good news is, if he hits like it says he can hit in the book, I think that we have a need for a left-handed hitter on our roster,” Duquette said. “And hopefully the next part of his hitting will be a stronger sample of what we saw in the spring.”