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Kim left out, but in plans

He'll skip series to rest shoulder

NEW YORK -- All but crossing their hearts or swearing on a Bible, Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein and manager Grady Little last night insisted Byung Hyun Kim was dropped from the 25-man roster solely because of tightness in his right shoulder rather than his record of futility against the Yankees or his unhappiness with his Sox experience.

The latest sign of Kim's displeasure purportedly occurred before Game 5 of the American League Division Series. Less than 48 hours after the Sox issued a prepared apology from Kim for flipping off the crowd at Fenway Park during the introductions before Game 3, he reprised the gesture toward fans near the Sox dugout at Network Associates Coliseum as he took the field for practice before Game 4, according to Moon Ho Kim, a reporter for Sports Today in Seoul.

"The fans who were there, they told me they saw it," Kim said before Game 1 of the AL Championship Series at Yankee Stadium.

An individual who was at the scene in Oakland and asked not to be identified corroborated the reporter's account. Kim has declined to speak with American or Korean reporters in recent days.

Epstein said he knew nothing about the allegation and expressed a measure of skepticism. "Given how badly he felt about the incident in Boston and how hard he was working to deal with the situation, I would be surprised if that ever happened again," Epstein said.

Kim remained with the Sox and continued to work out despite being dropped from the roster. Epstein said the righthander will follow a throwing program "with the sole goal in mind of getting him ready for Game 1 of the World Series."

Should the shoulder tightness persist, Kim will undergo a battery of medical tests, including an MRI, Epstein indicated.

"The doctors have looked at him and they aren't alarmed by anything," Little said. "He's just not at a point where he can tell us he can pitch every day. Some days yes, some days no. We can't afford to have that right now."

Kim, who blew two saves against the Yankees in the 2001 World Series with the Diamondbacks, also struggled against them this year, going 1-2 with a 5.14 ERA and blowing one of his two save chances.

Numbers crunching

As much as the operative plan is for John Burkett to start Game 4, the Sox could turn to Jeff Suppan if he shines in relief in one of the first two games of the series. Suppan, who was added to the roster with Todd Jones in place of Kim and outfielder Adrian Brown, was dazzling in his lone appearance this year in the Bronx, holding the Yankees to two runs on three hits over seven innings in a 3-1 loss Sept. 9. The Yankees touched Burkett for four runs on 10 hits over 5 1/3 innings in a 7-1 loss July 6 in his only start this year in the Bronx, though Burkett bounced back three weeks later to hold the Bombers scoreless over 5 2/3 innings in a 5-4 victory at Fenway Park (he took a no-decision).

"We're going to wait and see what it looks like in Game 4," Little said. "Right now, it's John Burkett, but anything could change."

Pressed during a pregame news conference about Burkett's poor career record during the regular season against the Yankees (0-6, 8.49), Little said, "You have to look at his age [38] and see what decade a lot of those numbers came from."

Suppan will serve as a long reliever. Jones could work as a righthanded specialist; he held righthanded hitters this year to a .227 average (lefthanders hit .321 against him). An 11-year veteran, Jones made his first postseason roster. "Now that I wasn't in the Division Series and I'm in the LCS, I'm even more thankful," Jones said. "But I won't be happy sitting on the bench. I want to help."

Adding it all up

The Sox went with 11 pitchers instead of 10, as they did in the Division Series, because the ALCS will last seven games rather than five and they do not plan to use their starters in relief, as they did against Oakland . . . With Johnny Damon out at least until Saturday and Brown off the roster, Little could be limited in how he uses Damian Jackson. He has used Jackson to play second base during Derek Lowe's starts. Little also has used Jackson as a pinch runner and a late defensive replacement at a variety of positions (Jackson has played every position this year except pitcher and catcher). Damon's injury also means Trot Nixon will start tonight against Andy Pettitte (Nixon is a career 1 for 9 against the lefty) . . . Little went with Todd Walker in place of Damon at the top of the order largely because he hit .313 and slugged three homers in the Division Series. "He's got as good a chance as anybody to get something started at the top," Little said. The move paid off in the fourth inning, when Walker blasted a solo homer off the right-field foul pole for a 3-0 lead . . . Little among the scoffers at The Curse of the Bambino. "I'm not really a big believer," he said. "Each year is different. This club has been through a lot of ownership changes, it's been through a lot of manager changes, and certainly a lot of personnel changes. I don't know, there's a few constants over there in New England, but I don't think we're battling The Curse of the Bambino. We're battling the New York Yankees, and this group of renegades that I'm putting out on the field, they don't care. They care about their Harley-Davidsons not running off the Tobin Bridge and playing baseball" . . . We don't put a whole lot of effort into concerning ourselves with the Bambino." . . . Done for the season after shoulder surgery, Jeremy Giambi was in town to watch the Sox play his brother Jason's Yankees . . . The Yankees called on New York's Mr. October, Reggie Jackson, to toss the ceremonial first pitch . . . Fox's top broadcast team of Joe Buck and Tim McCarver (joined by a mostly silent Bret Boone) worked the game with competence and a sense of humor. Reporter Kenny Albert interviewed fan Ed Hillel, who claimed the home run hit by Walker to lead off the fifth would have gone foul had another fan not touched it first. A replay showed Hillel looking away from the action at the time the ball was touched in front of the right-field foul pole.

Bill Griffith of the Globe staff contributed to this report.

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