Appearing on MASN during Tuesday's broadcast of the Orioles spring training game against the Braves, Dan Duquette confirmed what has been hinted for the last couple of days: Hyun Soo Kim will not be on the team's roster to begin the season.
It's a surprising development if you don't take any of Kim's performance in spring training into consideration. Not that spring training statistics should be entirely taken at face value, but when they're bad enough in particular ways, that tells something, too. In Kim's case, taking only one walk and not collecting any extra-base hits are big suggestions that he needs more time to adjust to the level of competition over here.
MASN's Roch Kubatko noted that Kim "hasn't been able to catch up with higher velocity fastballs" - which always seemed to be a possible sticking point for a player going from Korea to MLB. Kubatko added that there are concerns about Kim's arm, even if put in left field where expectations are lower.
So where will Kim be? Earlier in the day, Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports reported that Kim is "believed to be willing" to accept a demotion to Triple-A. That's important because the terms of Kim's contract stipulate that he can't be demoted without his consent.
About whether or not Kim would accept such a demotion, Duquette told O's reporters, "That's a conversation we need to have with him." Which seems to suggest he either doesn't know something Rosenthal knows, or that Duquette was just being his typical cagey self and he didn't want to tip his hand to the reporters.
Letting Kim to continue to adjust to his new environment while facing Triple-A competition and getting regular at-bats seems like a move that is beneficial to both sides. Assuming that's what hapepns, of course.
It's looking a lot like Rule 5 pick Joey Rickard will be the starting left fielder after all. On his MASN appearance, Duquette said Rickard will have the chance to play there.
Tough to pick out what's the Duquette-ism and what's the reality there with the "have the chance" qualifier. Still, he spoke to O's reporters after the TV appearance and from that conversation, different beat reporters took away different things. The Baltimore Sun's Jon Meoli observed "renewed optimism" about Nolan Reimold after hitting well over the last week, and took Ryan Flaherty's start in left field Tuesday night as a sign he may be in that race as well.
On the other hand, Kubatko was conclusive: Rickard will "receive the chance to be the everyday left fielder" while Reimold is described as "trying to make the club as an extra outfielder." So unless the Orioles bring in someone from outside, like the previously-rumored David Murphy, it seems like It's Rickard's job at least to start the season.
Whether it's a good idea to make Rickard the starter to begin the season is something we will surely be debating until his performance in the regular season makes one side of the argument or the other moot.
Rickard won't be performing like his .396/.475/.566 batting line when the games start counting. The wide disparity of their spring performances makes it fair enough that Rickard has supplanted Kim for the time being.