Kim Rejoins Red Sox in Surprise Move

Friday, September 17th 2004, 8:15 pm
By: News On 6

NEW YORK (AP) _ In a surprise move, pitcher Byung-Hyun Kim rejoined the Boston Red Sox on Friday after initial indications that he'd be out until next season.

Kim returned to the team at _ of all places _ Yankee Stadium, a park that has been unkind to the submariner.

Although not activated, Kim might be able to pitch again this season, general manager Theo Epstein said.

``He's not happy with the way his 2004 season was going,'' Epstein said. ``He feels it's his obligation to help if he can.''

Kim's ineffectiveness cost him a spot on the club earlier this year after going 1-1 with a 6.17 ERA in three starts.

The South Korean righty has been throwing side sessions at Fenway Park over the past week and was scheduled for two more this weekend. He then will be evaluated.

``The ball was pretty lively,'' manager Terry Francona said. ``The ball came out of his hands nice.''

Listening to head phones and singing softly to himself in the clubhouse before Friday night's game between Boston and New York, Kim was officially with his team for the first time since being optioned to Triple-A Pawtucket on May 11.

On Friday, Kim stood alone in center field for most of batting practice _ just a few hundred feet from the pitching mound where he had some of the worst moments in his career _ and had little interaction with teammates. He sprinted off the field and declined to answer any questions.

``He's shown a desire to come in and help, and fit in and be accountable,'' Epstein said.

Kim's very public collapse against the Yankees in the 2001 World Series _ when, as Arizona's closer, he blew two ninth-inning saves at Yankee Stadium _ was not a factor when the Red Sox traded for him in 2003.

He helped stabilize a shaky bullpen and went 8-5 with a 3.18 ERA and 16 saves. But Kim did not endear himself to teammates, acting aloof and often isolating himself in the clubhouse and on road trips.

Despite some of the idiosyncrasies, Boston still had high expectations for Kim and signed him to a two-year $10 million contract in the offseason,

Kim was projected to be the fifth starter this season, but struggled. His velocity was down and his control out of sync, and he was demoted to the minors.

The Red Sox publicly acknowledged Kim needed to learn more about team concept. He even went back to his home country during the season to work with a personal trainer. When he returned, Kim continued to have setbacks on the mound while in the minors.

``When he's got it, he can be very tough,'' center fielder Johnny Damon said. ``So we'll see. Only time will tell how good he can become again.''

The Red Sox have had a few embarrassing public moments with Kim.

During player introductions for Game 3 of the AL division series in 2003 at Fenway, he was booed and made an obscene gesture at the crowd. He had struggled against the Yankees during the regular season, and was left off the roster when Boston faced New York in the ALCS.

Kim was arrested during this past winter for allegedly pushing a photographer at a South Korean airport.

Now Kim is back in the Bronx, and with a team that is giving him another chance as it pushes for the playoffs.

``We won't activate him unless it's the right thing to do,'' Epstein said. ``Unless he's ready to contribute and be a good teammate.''