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Kim rejoins team; role uncertain

Francona pleased with his progress

He's been pretty much a forgotten man this season. He was sent to the minors, then went home to Korea, with some wondering whether he'd ever come back and others not caring a hoot if he did.

But Byung Hyun Kim did come back, and while his immediate future is certain, that's about all that's known.

The Red Sox officially recalled Kim from Pawtucket yesterday, even though he had been with the team since last Friday. Manager Terry Francona said Kim was "intriguing" after a couple of bullpen stints in New York over the weekend.

"I thought it was the best stuff he's had this year," Francona said. "The ball had a finish on it."

It has been a weird year for the 25-year-old Kim, who is in the first year of a two-year, $10 million contract. He started the season on the disabled list with a right shoulder strain and was activated April 29, picking up a victory in a 4-0 decision over Tampa Bay. However, in three overall appearances covering 11 2/3 innings, Kim gave up 12 hits, 11 runs (8 earned), and walked 5. He had a 6.17 earned run average.

He was sent down to Pawtucket May 11, and there were more than a few darts tossed by teammates as he left. He subsequently spent time in Korea, and no one was seen taking up a collection to bring him back. In Pawtucket, Kim went 2-6 with a 5.34 ERA. He appeared in 22 games, all but three as a starter.

Kim was in the bullpen for last night's game, and Francona said his hope was to first get Kim into a situation "where the game is not on the line." There was no such instance last night in the Sox' thrilling 3-2 victory over Baltimore.

The manager said his gut reaction as to why Kim struggled early was that the pitcher had lost a lot of his aggressiveness.

"You look at old video and he'd come flying off the mound," Francona said. "This year, there wasn't a whole lot of aggressiveness."

Kim declined to speak to reporters.

Toughing it out
Lost in the ninth-inning heroics from both sides was a terrific at-bat in the eighth by Kevin Millar. At the time, it looked as though Millar would be credited with the only RBI of the evening. He came up to face B.J. Ryan with the bases loaded and one out in a scoreless tie. Trot Nixon was scheduled to hit, but with Ryan, a flamethrowing lefthander, it was an easy decision. Millar fouled off several pitches before hitting a sacrifice fly to right to score Johnny Damon. "I wasn't trying to go to right," Millar explained. "I try to pull every single pitch. But he wouldn't let me. I was just trying to put the ball in the air. It was a big at-bat." . . . Keith Foulke had converted 16 straight save attempts, which tied him with Tampa Bay's Danys Baez for the best active streak. Last night was his sixth blown save -- and his fourth win. Javy Lopez's homer was the seventh allowed this season by Foulke and second in as many nights . . . The Red Sox have won 90 games for the third straight time, the 23d time in franchise history . . . Mark Bellhorn delivered the game-winning hit, but he also whiffed twice and is now one K short of tying Butch Hobson for the franchise record (162 in 1977).

Running in place
While Kim was able to go, the same could not be said for Ellis Burks, who has missed 132 games while trying to recover from a left medial meniscus tear and is day to day. "He ran pretty aggressively [yesterday] and he did OK," Francona said. "We'll see." Burks went on the disabled list April 26 and would love to get back into the lineup for at least the final week of the season. But he is becoming increasingly frustrated with the lack of cooperation from his left knee. "I have no idea what's going on," he said. "I'm doing my running. I'm trying to get back as fast as I can. I just can't seem to get over the hurdle." One problem: swelling after his running drills . . . Francona mentioned that one reason he does not like to get behind the Orioles is that it sometimes means an appearance from Ryan, Baltimore's nasty setup man. "He might be the toughest lefty in the league," Francona said. "We've seen him too much -- and that means they're winning." Damon, who fanned against Ryan in the ninth, offered this salutation: "He's good. I know it says on the scoreboard that he's throwing 90 or 91 but it feels like 100. We've got to score more runs earlier so we don't have to face him." . . . Rafael Palmeiro strained his right hamstring in Monday's game and was not in the lineup. His status is day to day . . . Francona made a couple of lineup switches, predicated in part by the presence of Orioles righty Rodrigo Lopez. Nixon was in right field and Doug Mientkiewicz was at first base. Mientkiewicz went hitless in three at-bats and is 1 for his last 19 . . . Jason Varitek went 0 for 4, continuing his slump (2 for 28) . . . Bill Mueller had four hits for the eighth time in his career. His last four-hit game was also against Baltimore, last season . . . The Sox announced affiliations with two new franchises in Single A ball, the Capital City Bombers, based in Columbia, S.C., of the South Atlantic League and the Wilmington (Del.) Blue Rocks of the Carolina League. Both arrangements are two-year deals . . . Last night was Organ Donor Awareness Night at Fenway Park. All fans attending the game were given an organ donor card featuring Mueller or Doug Mirabelli. Those two were teammates in San Francisco when the wife of teammate Mark Gardner underwent a life-saving liver transplant. Mueller and Mirabelli took part in a pregame ceremony with a donor family and a transplant surgeon. 

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