FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Turning toward Plan B for their starting rotation, the Red Sox yesterday shut down Byung Hyun Kim with inflammation in his pitching shoulder, increasing the likelihood Bronson Arroyo will open the season as the team's fifth starter.
Kim, the 25-year-old Korean who signed a two-year, $10 million contract in January to remain with the Sox, will rest at least a week before he launches a rehabilitation and conditioning program aimed at restoring his effectiveness. The team could not say whether the injury was related to the shoulder woes that cut short his season last September, sidelining him for the playoffs.
An MRI showed no structural damage in Kim's shoulder joint and rotator cuff, according to Dr. Brian Busconi, the team's assistant medical director.
"But he did have a spot of inflammation in the back of his shoulder, which was giving him the pain," Busconi said. "It was decided by the organization and the medical staff that the best thing to do is to rest him, try to get rid of some of that inflammation, and then start to work on his pitching form and mechanics."
The Sox are prepared for the possibility of Kim starting the season in extended spring training. He will not begin throwing again until after his rest and rehab program, and the throwing program could require several weeks for him to build up his stamina as a starter.
"Even if it ends up being a week or two into the season, we think this is the best way to do it," manager Terry Francona said.
Arroyo, who was shelled for six runs over two-plus innings Thursday by the Orioles, will take Kim's next turn in the rotation Tuesday and remain on course to fill the spot at least until Kim returns. Arroyo's rocky outing was his first in an otherwise impressive stint with the Sox since last August.
The Sox had planned to realign their rotation to start the season, flip-flopping Kim and Tim Wakefield so Wakefield would start the home opener April 9 against the Blue Jays. Kim would have started April 8 against the Orioles in Baltimore, but if he is unable to start the season in the rotation, the club could readjust the alignment. One possibility would be to slot Wakefield between Pedro Martinez and Curt Schilling from the start rather than later in April, as the team planned to do.
"We're going to look at everything," Francona said. "We're still at that point in spring training where we can pretty much do anything we want. We'll have about six different plans to cover everything."
Kim made two exhibition outings, struggling through each and attributing his slow start to discomfort in his middle back. Francona said Kim's arm strength was clearly lagging, which was corroborated by a scout's radar gun that timed Kim's fastball at 81-82 miles per hour, significantly below his regular velocity.
Kim declined a request to discuss the setback, though he alluded Wednesday to the challenge of battling back from last year's shoulder injury. He had logged a 4.16 ERA over 4 1/3 innings in his two exhibition starts, holding batters to a .214 average and a .333 on-base percentage.
"You can ask any pitcher who went through any rehab or any surgery, especially after injuries you had the previous year," Kim said through interpreter Chang Lee. "It's very difficult to come back and go out at 100 percent. There's always something in the back of your mind. I feel the same way. As time goes by and I throw more, hopefully it will get better and better. I'm not worrying about rushing to get ready."
The Sox also have no interest in rushing him. Though he received no medication for his back discomfort before he underwent the MRI, Kim has since begun a regimen of anti-inflammatories.
"Part of the role of spring training is to get him to a point where we actually want him, to where he has a good stable platform to pitch on," Busconi said. "He's not there right now."
Kim said last week that he believed his discomfort was related to adjustments he made in his mechanics after he suffered an ankle injury early last season with the Diamondbacks. But Francona said the injury also could be related to Kim's offseason training program, which the medical staff plans to alter.
"I think the best way to put it is, his body was just a little bit out of balance," Francona said. "His workout program this winter was a little different than he'd done. We want to get him on the right one. They will really strictly monitor what he does."
Pitching coach Dave Wallace said he also may advise Kim to tweak some of his mechanics (without altering his submarine-style delivery) to reduce any unnecessary physical stress.
Until then, Kim will rest and rehab amid the possibility he misses some time early in the season.
"If that happens, that's not the worst thing," Francona said. "We don't want him going into the season not pitching like he can pitch."