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Thursday, May 29
Updated: May 30, 3:46 PM ET
 
Kim expected to start Tuesday at Pittsburgh

Associated Press

BOSTON -- Byung-Hyun Kim is coming back to Fenway Park.

Kim wore a Red Sox cap while growing up in South Korea and pitched at Fenway Park during an international tournament in 1995. He was acquired by Boston from Arizona on Thursday for All-Star third baseman Shea Hillenbrand.

"I really liked the Green Monster and the rich tradition at the stadium. I was very impressed with it," Kim said through an interpreter.

Kim is a versatile right-hander who could start or close for the team, manager Grady Little said. He could see action out of the bullpen in the Red Sox series against Toronto this weekend and start for the team on Tuesday at Pittsburgh.

"I really love to be a starting pitcher, but if the team needs me in a closing role I am willing to do it," Kim said.

Kim is best known for his Yankee Stadium meltdowns in Games 4 and 5 of the 2001 World Series, but has had a solid career with Arizona.

He reluctantly filled the closer's role in Arizona after Matt Mantei injured an elbow in 2001 and holds the club record with 70 saves, including 36 last season, also a team record. He was 8-3 last year with a 2.04 ERA and 92 strikeouts in 84 innings.

"I've coveted him for a very long time and this organization has as well," Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein said.

A Byung-Hyun Kim-for-Shea Hillenbrand deal was rumored earlier this season, so it comes as no surprise. I believe it's a trade that will help both clubs.

For the Red Sox, this deal is a signal that the bullpen-by-committee is going by the boards. Kim has been starting this season for the Diamondbacks, but he was their closer during the World Series title run in 2001. And I expect him to close for Boston. Bill Mueller apparently will step in at third base for Boston. He isn't a prototypical third baseman who hits homers and drives in runs, but he's hit well this season.

For the Diamondbacks, this deal is a signal that they're not giving up on the season. Hillenbrand gives them an upgrade at third base. Matt Williams is not getting it done at this stage of his career, and he has a history of getting hurt. Now he'll need to accept a lesser role. Hillenbrand will add some much-needed punch to Arizona's lineup. And while closer Matt Mantei is dealing with some arm stiffness, he's looked good to me this year. I've seen him throw with excellent velocity.

It's true that the Red Sox have a history of questionable personnel moves, from Babe Ruth to Jeff Bagwell. But this deal is different than trading a young Bagwell for a 37-year-old reliever for the stretch run. Hillenbrand is 27 years old, but Kim is only 24. So I see this trade helping both clubs in the short term and over the long haul.

Only time will tell if one team benefits more, but right now this trade looks like a push.

Kim never hid his desire to be a starter and he was given a chance this year. He is 1-5 with a 3.56 ERA, but he has been hurt by a lack of run support.

Although Boston's plan to employ a bullpen by committee has been undermined by the shaky performance of its relievers, Kim fills a more immediate need for someone to start while ace Pedro Martinez is on the disabled list. Martinez is eligible to come off the DL this weekend.

When he returns to the rotation, Kim will probably be the team's closer, Little said.

The Diamondbacks, the two-time defending NL West champions, have struggled on offense and sorely needed a right-handed hitter. Arizona is 24-29, 8½ games behind first-place San Francisco.

"`Pretty clearly, we need the offensive help, and we need it sooner rather than later," Diamondbacks general manager Joe Garagiola Jr. said. "We've played what, 53 games, now. You keep saying 'Well, there's a lot of time left,' but every day there's less time left.

"This is a player we think will help us score runs, and that's what we need to do to have any real success the rest of this season."

Hillenbrand, who is from Mesa, Ariz., and played for Mesa Community College, jumped from Double-A to the major leagues in spring training two years ago and made the AL All-Star team last year.

But his lack of patience at the plate made him the frequent subject of trade talks as Epstein stressed on-base percentage and working pitchers deep into the count.

Hillenbrand has batted .303 with 38 RBI, playing 49 of Boston's 52 games this season. He has shared third base with Bill Mueller, who leads the Red Sox with a .382 batting average in 44 games. At first base, sharing the duties with David Ortiz and Kevin Millar, Hillenbrand has been Boston's best fielder.

"He's a run-producer. He drives in runs," Garagiola said. "He does not hit a lot of home runs, although he hit one last night, but hits a lot of doubles, puts the ball in play, works the whole field."

Hillenbrand was considered even more valuable because he makes just $407,500 and isn't eligible for free agency until after the 2006 season. Kim makes $3.25 million and is eligible for free agency after the '05 season.

Despite his limited service time, Hillenbrand is 27 and has been with the Red Sox organization since he was drafted in the 10th round in 1996. He was one of four players on the Boston roster that came up through the system.

Epstein traveled to Toronto to break the news to Hillenbrand personally.

"We had a good talk, and he took it very professionally," Epstein said. "I thanked him for the terrific work he had done for the organization and he said it had been a privilege to play for the Red Sox and he is excited to play for the D-Backs as well."

Although Kim is just 24, the South Korean is in his fifth season in the majors.

Kim was placed on the 15-day DL on April 30 with a bruised right ankle, an injury caused when he was hit with part of a broken bat.

He came off the DL and allowed just one run in seven innings at San Francisco Tuesday night but got no decision when the Diamondbacks couldn't hold a 2-1 lead and lost 4-3 in 13 innings.

There were two Red Sox scouts at the game watching Kim.




 More from ESPN...
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