St. Louis Cardinals turn to Kwang Hyun Kim for rotation help
By Brett Ramsey
The St. Louis Cardinals have found themselves having to modify their starting rotation very early in the season. It’s Kwang Hyun Kim’s turn to step into the mix. Here’s why that could be really important.
When the St. Louis Cardinals signed Kwang Hyun Kim this winter, it was with the expectation that he would be a contender for the club’s starting rotation. The indication was that he could be the left-handed starter the team was lacking and also add some valuable depth.
It came across as a mild surprise when he was announced as the team’s closer before the shortened season started. He made his Cardinals and major league debut on opening night, notching a save against the Pittsburgh Pirates. It seemed as though Kim was going to be a great option at the back end of games, even if his first game was a little shaky.
Fast forward a week or two and things have changed. Miles Mikolas is out for the season, and Carlos Martinez was just placed on the IL where it seems he will miss at least one start and possibly more. The Cardinals turned to Daniel Ponce de Leon for a spot start where he pitched fine but unspectacular. That is where Kim enters the rotation picture.
According to Derrick Goold from the St. Louis Post Dispatch, Kim will be entering the starting rotation. Who steps in to fill the closer role will be determined, likely based on availability and matchup. Hopefully plugging this hole in the rotation doesn’t create a new one in the bullpen.
In Korea, Kim was a career starter. The 32-year-old was a 12-year veteran of the KBO before the Cardinals signed him. In the KBO, Kim averaged 140 innings per season with a career 3.27 ERA. While that is a fine career ERA, his last two years with the SK Wyverns were his best. In both years, he had an ERA under 3.00. In 2019, he had his best year since 2010 with a 2.51 ERA over 190.0 innings.
I think Kim can excel as a starting pitcher in the United States. The Cardinals signed him knowing that he could start and they now seem ready to give him the chance to do so. It can be so important to mix a lefty in with all the right-handers to give opponents another look.
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Another important aspect that I think is worth noting is the fact that most players won’t have the scoop on him yet. Sure, there are scouting reports and videos of him but major league players won’t have had experience in the batter’s box against him as of yet. That could work in his favor.
Overall, I think this piece of news could end up being significant. Kim could struggle and leave the team scrambling for another answer. He could be magnificent and take the job and run with it. He could pitch above average in the rotation but might be yanked back to the bullpen if things falter there.
One way or another, I think Kwang Hyun Kim stepping into the starting rotation for the St. Louis Cardinals is going to have a big influence on the trajectory the Cardinals’ season goes from here. They signed him for this opportunity and now it’s here. It’s time for him to rise to the occasion and I think he will.