Byung-Hyun Kim (born January 19, 1979 in Kwangsan-Ku Songjungdong, South Korea) a.k.a BK is a free agent right-handed pitcher in Major League Baseball. Previously, he played for the Arizona Diamondbacks (-, ), Boston Red Sox (2003-), Colorado Rockies (2005-2007), and Florida Marlins (2007).
Usually described as a submarine pitcher, Kim is a side-arm and under-arm hard thrower who uses a great variety of deliveries. Kim possesses a four-seam fastball with tailing movement frequently hitting the low 90's, a Frisbee slider with sweeping motion across the plate, an up-shoot slider with a rising motion, and a circle-changeup which he usually uses to strike out left-handed hitters. Nevertheless, during the three seasons between and , his main problem had been the loss of right pitching balance, which caused difficulty in ball control, reduced ball velocity, and an appearance of inability to handle pressure to those who did not understand the relationship between the balance and an overall performance for an underhand pitcher. During that time, he also struggled against left-handed batters. But his performance has improved each season since 2005.
Kim is a 1997 graduate of Gwangju First High School. Jae Seo and Hee Seop Choi were Kim's teammates in 1996 and they are very close friends. Named both the Most Valuable Player and Most Valuable Pitcher for the National High School championships in Korea, Kim was selected to the 1996 National Junior Team, then named to the National Team in both 1997 and 1998. In that year, he pitched against the US Olympic team, striking out 15 batters in 6 2/3 innings. Later, he helped Korea claim the gold medal in the Asian Games held in Bangkok, Thailand. Kim attended Sungkyunkwan University's Faculty of Law until 1999.
He made his first career postseason appearance in the NLDS Game 3 at the Busch Stadium to protect the Diamondbacks’ 5-3 lead against the Cardinals with the go-ahead run at the plate in the 8th inning. After a walk to Albert Pujols that loaded the bases, Kim ended the inning with a center-field flyout. In the 9th inning, Kim saved the game with the game-ending double play off Mark McGwire's bat.
In the NLCS against the Atlanta Braves, Kim worked a scoreless inning in Game 2, in which the Diamondbacks lost. Kim then saved Games 4 and 5 for the Diamondbacks and sealed his team’s claim of the championship. Kim entered Game 4 with the bases loaded with no out in the 8th inning to save the Diamondbacks’ 7-3 lead. Kim shut out this inning with a double play and a lineout. He then retired the next 3 batters in the 9th inning and saved the game. The next night, Kim pitched another 2 shutout innings and saved the game that clinched the Diamondbacks’ ticket to the World Series. Kim became the first pitcher since Goose Gossage to earn two-inning saves on back-to-back days in the postseason. In the 2004 postseason, Houston Astros closer Brad Lidge matched Gossage and Kim's feat.
With the Diamondbacks up two games to one going into Game 4, Kim relieved Curt Schilling in the eighth inning with the Diamondbacks leading 3-1. Kim struck out Shane Spencer, Scott Brosius, Alfonso Soriano, and Bernie Williams and grounded out Derek Jeter. But Paul O'Neill hit a single off Kim before Jeter's plate appearance and Tino Martinez's two-out, two-run home run tied the game in the bottom of the ninth inning. With another home run hit off Kim by Derek Jeter in the bottom of the tenth, the Yankees won the game and tied the Series. Kim threw more than 60 pitches and was charged with the loss. The night after, in Game 5, Diamondbacks manager Bob Brenly sent Kim again to the mound to protect the Diamondbacks' 2-0 lead. Jorge Posada hit a double off Kim, but Kim grounded out Shane Spencer and struck out Chuck Knoblauch. Then the Yankees again came from a two-run, two-out deficit in the ninth inning, to defeat the Diamondbacks in 12 innings. Kim was again victimized, this time by Scott Brosius, whose two-run home run tied the score. Later, Alfonso Soriano hit a single in the bottom of the 12th to win the game. Despite Kim's poor performance, the Diamondbacks staged a comeback and clinched the World Series Championship in Game 7 at Bank One Ballpark.
Kim later revealed in an exclusive interview how he felt during the 2001 World Series. "We went through the whole season, 25 guys and then the coaching staff. That time it was like old people. They said, 'OK, we got last chance.' Some people said if we don't win, next year everybody's gone." Kim continued, "Then I gave up a home run. I didn't feel good. But we won."
On June 12, 2002, Kim pitched two shut-out innings with four strikeouts and saved the Diamondbacks' 9-5 win over the New York Yankees at the Yankee Stadium.
In 2002, Kim converted 36 of 42 save opportunities, eighth-best in the NL. Kim was selected for the All-Star Game.
Kim remained as a starter through June, but the Red Sox needed him as their closer because the Red Sox's closer-by-committee approach implemented following the advice of the famed baseball statistician and Red Sox adviser Bill James was failing. On June 27, Kim made his final start for the 2003 season in Boston's 25-8 win against the Florida Marlins at Fenway Park.
Kim became the Red Sox closer in July, converting 16 saves out of 19 save opportunities despite pitching through lingering ankle and shoulder pain caused by the injury he sustained in April. Although he didn't give up a single earned run in September, by the time the postseason started Kim was not healthy enough to be effective on the pitching mound.
Kim was pulled in the bottom of the 9th inning with two outs in his only ALDS appearance in Game 1 against the Oakland Athletics. During the lineup announcement in Game 3 at Fenway Park, Red Sox fans intensely booed him. Thinking that he did not deserve the booing after he pitched despite being in pain to advance the Red Sox to the postseason, Kim gave them the middle finger, but later issued an apology. Because of shoulder stiffness, Kim was left off the ALCS roster.
Even though the Red Sox lost the ALCS to the Yankees, the Red Sox retained most of its core players for 2004 and won the World Series.
As a starter, Kim went 3-6 with a 3.38 ERA in 12 appearances in . In the beginning of 2004, however, problems with his balance -- a lingering effect of the 2003 ankle injury -- made him ineffective and cost him a spot in the starting rotation after going 1-1 with a 6.17 ERA in three starts. Bronson Arroyo took Kim's starting rotation spot and Kim was optioned to Triple-A Pawtucket in May. Kim rejoined the Red Sox in September. He was assigned to the bullpen and won one game in 5.2 innings of work.
Kim briefly became a subject of talks between high-ranking U.S. and South Korean diplomats in August 2004. Upon his arrival in Seoul as the new U.S. Ambassador to Korea in August 2004, Ambassador Christopher R. Hill, currently Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs and the chief U.S. negotiator for North Korea's nuclear program, spoke with his Korean diplomatic counterparts about Kim and the Red Sox, along with the U.S.-Korea relationship and other diplomatic and geopolitical issues surrounding the Korean peninsula. Ambassador Hill is one of the high-ranking "Red Sox fan" diplomats in the predominantly Red-Sox U.S. Department of State and watched the Red Sox win the World Series while stationed in Seoul. See South Korea-United States relations for more details and background information on Hill's mention of Kim.
Rockies manager Clint Hurdle gave Kim the choice of taking a spot in the bullpen (Kim posted 0-3 with 7.84 ERA as a middle reliever for the Rockies that season) or a starter position in the Rockies' Triple-A team Colorado Springs Sky Sox. Just 20 minutes later, Hurdle was told that that Rockies starter Shawn Chacon was injured and has to go to the disabled list, opening a spot in the Rockies starting rotation for Kim.
On August 8, Sunny Kim, another South Korean starting pitcher who had just joined the Rockies from the Washington Nationals, and Kim started doubleheader games at Coors Field against the Florida Marlins. They became the first two pitchers with same last name to start both ends of doubleheader since Gaylord and Jim Perry started each end of a doubleheader for the Cleveland Indians against the Boston Red Sox at the Fenway Park on June 22, 1974. The Rockies won both games and Kim collected a win.
Kim finished the season 5-9 with a 4.37 ERA as a starter and filed for free agency on November 1, 2005, and re-signed with the Rockies. He earned $1.25 million in 2006 with a club option worth $2.5 million in 2007 (with a $250k buyout).
He started two historic games in the Major League history soon thereafter. On May 22, 2006, Kim and his former high school teammate and then-Los Angeles Dodgers' starter Jae Seo started against each other. This game was the first game in which two Korean pitchers started against each other in the Major League history. Both pitchers had quality starts, but Seo outdueled Kim.
On May 28, Barry Bonds hit his 715th home run off Kim at SBC Park and surpassed Babe Ruth's 714 career home runs and put himself in sole possession of second place on the all-time career home runs list. After a three-minute delay, Kim struck out the next two batters and pitched 5 1/3 innings to collect a win.
On July 28, 2006, he had 5 consecutive strikeouts against the San Diego Padres, tying the Rockies record for consecutive strikeouts. In four different starts, he recorded nine strikeouts each against the Florida Marlins, Houston Astros, Pittsburgh Pirates and Washington Nationals. Kim became the only pitcher in the Major League history to pitch shutout wins in consecutive starts at Coors Field by beating the Oakland Athletics on June 19 and the Texas Rangers on June 25.
After a spot start on April 15, Kim was placed on the disabled list with an injured thumb. He was assigned to the Rockies' Triple-A team, the Colorado Springs Sky Sox, for a rehab assignment. Kim was concerned that his rehab assignment was longer than necessary and changed his agent by hiring Scott Boras to help speed up the trade process. On May 13, 2007, he was traded to the Florida Marlins for Jorge Julio. As a Marlin, he proved himself as a dependable starter.
On August 1, Kim collected his 50th career win with career-high ten strikeouts in his starting match-up against Josh Fogg at Dolphin Stadium.
Two days later, Kim was claimed off waivers by the Arizona Diamondbacks. Kim's return to Arizona lasted two starts; the Diamondbacks designated him and Joe Kennedy for assignment on August 14. Shortly after Kim left the Diamonbacks, Diamondbacks closer Jose Valverde broke Kim's franchise single-season save record.
On August 25, 2007, the Florida Marlins re-signed Kim as a free agent.
On September 28, Kim collected his tenth win of the season against the Mets at Shea Stadium and became the second South Korean pitcher after Chan Ho Park to win ten games in a Major League season.