Remember when Hyun Soo Kim went O for Spring Training and you wondered why he was on the Orioles opening day roster? After that brutal spring the Orioles thought it would be best for Kim to go to AAA Norfolk to help his transition to the major leagues, but Kim’s contract gave him the right to reject such a demotion and he did. I remember the Korean outfielder running down the orange carpet on Opening day, his first introduction greeted with a chorus of boos. Welcome to Baltimore, Mr. Kim.
He spent most of April on the bench watching Joey Rickard in left field. In the Orioles first 23 games Kim only had 11 at bats, but he made the most of them going 6 for 11. Slowly the Orioles started gaining more confidence in Kim and his production and opportunities increased. He went from 15 at bats in April to 35 in May to 52 in June, at the All-Star break he was hitting .329 and had become a key player for the first place Orioles.
Fast forward to Wednesday night, the Orioles after losing the first of a 3-game series in Toronto were down 2-1 to the Blue Jays with one out in the 9th inning. With post-season chances getting dicey Buck Showalter called on Kim to pinch hit against Toronto closer Robert Osuna and did he!
Kim connected off Osuna and launched the game winning home run into the Orioles right field bullpen. The Orioles bullpen and bench went nuts, the 3-2 win was Baltimore’s biggest of the year and Kim said the home run was the biggest of his life. Yes! Welcome to Baltimore Mr. Kim.
Remember when you thought the Orioles just needed to cut their losses, so what if they’d have to eat millions of dollars on Ubaldo Jimenez’s contract, it would be addition by subtraction bye-bye ‘Baldo. Things bottomed out in early July when Ubaldo gave up 5 runs and got only 4 outs against the Angels his ERA had ballooned to 7.38.
Buck had seen enough Jimenez was removed from the rotation and sent to the bullpen. He might as well been in the witness protection program he was only seen on the mound one time between July 8th and August 7th. Ubaldo was well-paid but MIA.
Injuries forced the Orioles hand and Ubaldo was back in the rotation by late August. He wasn’t just back he was excelling, the guy who couldn’t find home plate with a GPS suddenly had pin-point control and wicked movement on all his pitches. In his 7 starts since returning to the rotation Ubaldo has a sparkling 2.45 ERA.
He threw a complete game 2-hitter at Tampa Bay and threw his biggest game Thursday night in Toronto. A night after Kim’s home run lifted the Orioles playoff chances Jimenez was just as big. The right-hander blanked the Blue Jays leaving with 2 out in the 7th inning. The bullpen did the rest as the Orioles won 4-0 tying Toronto for the top wild-card spot.
A day apart two of the most popular guys in the Orioles clubhouse came up big in the team’s drive for post-season baseball. At times during this season they didn’t look like they belonged but today Kim and Ubaldo have never looked better. Who would have thunk it!