Rockies assign Kim, Martin to bullpen
Club needs each to show signs of improvement in role
TUCSON, Ariz. -- The Rockies presented right-handed pitcher Byung-Hyun Kim and left-handed pitcher Tom Martin challenges wrapped in validation on Friday afternoon.The Rockies named righty Josh Fogg their fifth starter and told Kim he would pitch out of the bullpen -- the role in which he struggled with in 2005. Kim remains a trade candidate, as several teams have starting rotation holes with the season approaching. The club also sent non-roster lefty Mike Gallo to Minor League camp, giving Martin a big-league job with the understanding that if he doesn't overcome his spring blues (0-2, 14.73 ERA, .529 batting average against), Gallo will be just a phone call away at Triple-A Colorado Springs. Friday's other moves helped bring the Opening Day roster close to completion. With Troy Tulowitzki having won the shortstop competition, former starter Clint Barmes was optioned to Colorado Springs. So were center fielder Cory Sullivan, who started last year but couldn't crack an improved outfield, and right-handed pitching prospect Ubaldo Jimenez. Infielder Erick Almonte, whose presence meant rest for standout first baseman Todd Helton, was reassigned to Minor League camp. Barring trades, six of the seven bullpen positions are occupied by closer Brian Fuentes and fellow lefties Martin and Jeremy Affeldt and right-handers Kim, LaTroy Hawkins and Taylor Buchholz. Righties Manny Corpas and Ramon Ramirez are competing for the final job, and Hurdle said Corpas leads. The other spot, for a utilityman/pinch-hitter, is a contest among John Mabry, Alexis Gomez and Ryan Spilborghs. The Rockies looked beyond less-than-scintillating numbers to pencil Kim and Martin into the bullpen. In 2005, Kim was 0-3 with a 7.66 ERA in 18 relief appearances, and the Rockies informed him they would option him to Triple-A. He was prepared invoke his right to refuse, based on his Major League service time, and become a free agent. But that day, Shawn Chacon went on the disabled list with a hamstring injury and Kim became a starter. Kim explained that the he could function as a starter or closer -- where he had success with the D-backs and Red Sox -- but he couldn't handle the uncertainty of other roles. Kim had his moments but also struggled with consistency in nearly two seasons as a Rockies starter (13-21, 5.03 ERA). But on Friday, Hurdle said he, pitching coach Bob Apodaca and general manager Dan O'Dowd explained to Kim that he will have to adjust better than the last time.
"I think he was respectful," Hurdle said. "Obviously, we know this is something he's going to have to find a way to move forward on and embrace for the betterment of the team. This is team-related. There was competition for the fifth starting position. Josh Fogg won that opportunity.
"We've seen him struggle, and there's a long history of him doing well [in the bullpen], also. It's kind of like when you pull a hamstring, you don't pull it forever."Apodaca hopes Kim can settle in his role for the betterment of the club.
"Any starter that goes to the bullpen, it's changing a lot of routines," Apodaca said. "But in the bigger picture, this is where he's going to help the Colorado Rockies starting in April. We don't hope he accepts it. We need that acceptance."When the time comes for a spot start from the bullpen, Kim might not be first in line. Buchholz could make an emergency start. Jimenez, who impressed this spring (0-1, 2.45 ERA, 1 save), is close to ready. Also, righty Brian Lawrence, a year after shoulder surgery, hasn't thrown as many as 75 pitches in a game and most likely will begin the year in extended Spring Training, but the Rockies will soon need a place for him. Last spring, Martin was a non-roster invitee whom Hurdle remembered as having pitched well against the Rockies, and that memory helped Martin make the club despite some struggles. During the regular season, Martin went 2-0 with a 5.07 ERA and was better on the road (2-0, 2.93) than at home (0-0, 7.28). This offseason, the Rockies signed Martin to a one-year, $800,000 contract. Recently, Hurdle said the Rockies felt they and Martin wanted to stick with their commitment. Removing Gallo (0-1, 5.14 ERA this spring), at least for now, gives Martin a chance to justify Hurdle's thought process, again. "In Gallo's case, he came in and he made his presence known," Hurdle said. "He gives us an opportunity that if things don't go well initially out of the bullpen, we've got options to go to sooner than later. "In Tom's case, I think it's a veteran presence and guy that has done it. We're giving him every opportunity to reacquire the command that he has shown and to play this thing out as long as we can until we decide to go in a different direction." It all adds up to Kim and Martin being on notice. "Nothing's permanent," Apodaca said. "We hope it is. We hope every decision we make lasts the entire year. It means we made good decisions and everybody is doing well."
Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.