Bucs' Kim settles down in spring debut
After allowing home run, reliever retires next three hitters
BRADENTON, Fla. -- Though he entered camp late and behind on his throwing program, Byung-Hyun Kim gave the Pirates every reason to believe that he will be a viable bullpen option coming out of Spring Training.
After serving up a first-pitch home run to Phillies slugger Ryan Howard on Monday, Kim settled in and recorded three straight outs in his one inning of relief. The appearance was the first for the 29-year-old South Korean this spring.
"[I was] very excited about it," pitching coach Jeff Andrews said afterward. "I talked to [catcher Ryan] Doumit about what he saw and he said the ball was really light and he liked his slider. And he showed more velocity than he did in his [side sessions].
"I would have thought he'd be further behind, but not after I saw his velocity."
After throwing batting practice on Friday, Kim had said he was concerned that he was still not feeling game-ready. However, his assessment after Monday's game was that he is right on track.
"I feel pretty good," said Kim, speaking in broken English. "Just the first pitch. The other ones were pretty good with location. I have to see more hitters. My stuff was OK."
As the Pirates begin to piece together a versatile bullpen -- which still potentially has four open spots in it -- Kim provides an intriguing option. His sidearm delivery and effectiveness against right-handers has been noted by Andrews and manager John Russell as something that could be extremely beneficial out of the 'pen.
The Pirates signed Kim to an $850,000 Minor League deal back on Feb. 24. Only $300,000 of that contract is guaranteed, and Kim does have an opt-out clause in his contract if he does not make the team out of Spring Training.
General manager Neal Huntington did make it clear when the signing was announced that Kim was by no means a shoo-in for a roster spot. However, with the Pirates needing two and likely at least three additional right-handers for the bullpen, the veteran Kim appears to be in line as one of the top candidates.
"The guy's been around," Russell said. "He adds a different dimension for you. The different things he can come with, the different speeds. He's got some life to his fastball still. It gives you a different look in the bullpen."
Kim is scheduled to make his next one-inning appearance on Thursday, when the Pirates face the Yankees.
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.