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Red Sox pitching Kim -- to other teams

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Less than a year after acquiring him from Arizona, the Red Sox appear prepared to part with enigmatic pitcher Byung Hyun Kim.

Sources inside and outside the club said yesterday that the Sox are actively shopping the Korean righthander, with one major league scout insisting that, depending on the deal, the Sox would be willing to eat part of Kim's two-year, $10 million contract. Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein, who was here with the Sox last night, declined comment, adhering to his policy of not discussing potential trades.

A Kansas City Royals scout, among others, was on hand last night in Durham, N.C., where Kim was pitching for the Triple A Pawtucket Red Sox against Durham, a Devil Rays farm club. It's likely the Royals scout was there as part of his routine coverage, one team source said, though his presence won't do anything to dispel rumors surrounding Carlos Beltran, Kansas City's All-Star outfielder. Beltran is eligible for free agency after the season, and with the Royals in last place in the AL Central, 10 games out of first, speculation is mounting that GM Allard Baird is prepared to move Beltran before the July 31 trading deadline.

Baird has been consistent in stipulating what he would be seeking in return: young major league-ready players, at a price the budget-minded Royals could afford. That's why talk that the Sox would package Johnny Damon with either Derek Lowe or Kim for Beltran makes little sense, given the money those players are being paid. And, added one AL executive, "Damon didn't make a lot of friends with some of the stuff he said when he left Kansas City."

The New York Yankees have been the most aggressive team in calling about Beltran, the executive said, adding that the Mets also called last week, along with the Seattle Mariners. The executive said he was not certain how much the Sox were involved in the pursuit of Beltran.

Kim made his second appearance for Pawtucket last night under an unusual arrangement prescribed just for him. Just as he did last Friday night, Kim started but went just two innings. The results last night were better than last week, when Kim gave up a three-run home run in the first inning. This time, he pitched two scoreless innings, giving up two hits, walking none, and striking out two.

The Sox, according to one club source, are hopeful that Kim continues to improve, not to earn a return trip to Boston, but so the Sox can persuade somebody else to take him off their hands. Bronson Arroyo's strong performance in Toronto last weekend, followed by some telling comments by teammates, adds credence to the Sox' willingness to deal Kim.

Kim was 1-1 with a 6.17 ERA in three starts for the Sox after missing most of the first month of the season with a strained right shoulder. Less than two weeks after he was activated April 29, he was optioned to Pawtucket, the Sox dismayed by his puzzling loss of velocity and his refusal to accede to the club's wishes that he lessen the amount of throwing he does between starts, which may be directly contributing to that loss of velocity.

Kim's tenure in Boston already has been marked by controversy, most notably the obscene gesture he made at the Fenway Park crowd last October during playoff introductions. He also was dropped from the roster for the ALCS against the Yankees after complaining of shoulder soreness. Even so, Epstein signed Kim to the $10 million contract last winter, believing his statistics, accumulated at such a young age, reflected a high ceiling.

But most of Kim's success came as a closer, not a starter. He was 26-21 with a 3.13 ERA in 279 relief appearances, while he entered this season with a 3-6 record and 3.75 ERA as a starter.

Epstein envisioned Kim as one of the strongest No. 5 starters in baseball, and a pitcher who could eventually assume an even more significant role. In the past, Epstein has made allowances for Kim, reminding observers of the difficulties faced in trying to assimilate to a different culture. But it appears Epstein's patience may have run out, and the Sox are trying to cut their losses.

One major league source with National League ties said the Diamondbacks reached a similar point last May, when they traded Kim to the Red Sox for Shea Hillenbrand. The Diamondbacks, the source said, also struggled with what they perceived to be Kim's immaturity, and his refusal to take advice, from the coaching staff or teammates, especially as it pertained to his workout routine.

With the Diamondbacks, Kim routinely threw his fastball in the 91- to 93-mile-an-hour range, but in his last start for the Sox, he was in the 82-86 range. Both Kim and the team insist he is not hurt, although there were some raised eyebrows when the Sox activated Kim from his April rehab assignment with Pawtucket, because there was some feeling he wasn't ready. 

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