Kim says move to bullpen is 'not right'

Kim says move to bullpen is 'not right'

TEMPE, Ariz. -- Byung-Hyun Kim said Saturday "it's not right" that the Rockies asked him to try new pitches while judging him for a starting-rotation slot this spring. The Rockies said the adjustments were sound, and now the right-hander must function in the bullpen and not let his disappointment become a distraction.

On Friday, the Rockies made right-hander Josh Fogg the No. 5 starter and put Kim in middle relief. The last time Kim had such a role with the Rockies, in early 2005, he pitched so poorly (0-3, 7.66 ERA in 18 relief appearances) that he nearly was released, but then a starting-rotation job opened, and Kim stayed with the Rockies.

This spring, Kim was asked to work on throwing a two-seam fastball inside to right-handed batters and his changeup. Kim has struggled much of the spring (0-1, 9.00 ERA).

But he threw three scoreless innings against the Brewers on Thursday in a game shortened by rain and hail. Afterward, Kim said he dropped the new pitches and pitched the way he wanted.

Responding to a question posed Saturday morning in the Rockies' clubhouse in Tucson about how he would prepare for the bullpen role, Kim said he did not know and elaborated to say he is uncomfortable enough with the position that he'd welcome a trade. The Rockies reportedly have been shopping Kim, who will make $2.5 million this season after the Rockies picked up his option this winter.

"It seems to me this spring is a little bit weird," said Kim, who as planned was not part of the contingent at Tempe for the Cactus League game against the Angels. "They say, 'Try this.' 'Try changeup, inside two-seamers.' Then, 'You're OK. If you give up hits, home runs, they don't count.' Then now ...

"It's not right, I think. If they say, 'Competition, do this,' I don't do any 'try.' It's not right. Hopefully, I've talked to my agent, and I'll see. They're trying to [trade Kim] and they're going to find something. I don't know. Hopefully."

Rockies manager Clint Hurdle, told of Kim's comments before the game in Tempe, said Kim wasn't the only player asked to make adjustments while competing.

Hurdle said Fogg pitched to both sides of the plate and rookie shortstop Troy Tulowitzki improved his plate discipline. Hurdle said shortstop Clint Barmes and center fielder Cory Sullivan, both of whom were optioned to Triple-A Colorado Springs on Friday, are still working on their offensive areas of improvement.

"We're going to break this spring with the best club that we can, with the best starting rotation we felt," Hurdle said. "We've not only looked at B.K. this spring, we've looked at him for parts of the last two seasons.

"We think he can help us, with the weapons he has, fortify the bullpen. Now, it's going to be up to him to accept the opportunity that's presented to him for the betterment of the team. If he chooses not to do that, we'll get to that point when that happens. I'm not saying it has happened."

Kim, who has an unusual submarine pitching motion, tends to stay on the outside part of the plate, and there are concerns that right-handed hitters have figured him out. The statistics seem to support that he is being figured out.

Right-handed hitters have a .217 career batting average against Kim, with much of his success coming when he was a young bullpen closer with the Diamondbacks and the Red Sox. But righties hit .265 against him last season, when he went 8-12 with a 5.57 ERA. The lefties' .267 career average against him was buoyed by their .325 last season.

Rockies pitching coach Bob Apodaca, who was in Tempe for Saturday's game, said he felt Kim gave the changes a chance and did as instructed, but it's hard to tell if he had the proper thought process.

"You see a location that he throws to, but I don't know what his intent is," Apodaca said. "I can't always tell intent until I go to the catcher. But he was attempting several things, and he was starting to implement them."

When he struggled in middle relief before, he explained that he was more comfortable with the more easily defined assignments of a starter or a closer. Kim said he did not know if he could make the mental adjustment to his new role.

"They got my option, and then they say, 'You're going to stay in the bullpen,'" Kim said. "I don't want to. It's not fair. It's not right.

"That's my opinion. It's not baseball's way. It's just personal. Baseball is a business. I don't like business. I like sport. But it's a business."

Hurdle and Apodaca said Kim did not express any of his disagreement when informed of the decision in a meeting with Hurdle, Apodaca and general manager Dan O'Dowd on Friday.

Hurdle said he would have a conversation with Kim on Sunday, a day Kim is scheduled to pitch.

"He needs to produce to have an opportunity to continue in that role," Hurdle said. "What we're not going to have and what we've stressed for quite some time now is distractions. He needs to parlay his passion for pitching into the opportunity he has to pitch to help this ballclub.

"You've got to look at the big picture. What I want to do, what I'm able to do and what I'm given a chance to do can all be different. When you look at the biggest picture, and that's for this ballclub to be the best ballclub it can be to win games, that's the one we're putting our emphasis on."

Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.