CINCINNATI -- When San Diego Padres slugger Fernando Tatis Jr. suffered a fractured left wrist and was added to the 60-day injured list in early March, a team weakness was exposed.
The Padres lacked additional experience in the infield to replace Tatis.
Realistically, it would be difficult, if not impossible, to replace the production of an All-Star and former 40-home run hitter, but two Padres were given the difficult task of doing so.
The two had struggled to produce in the early weeks of the season, up until the most recent Cincinnati series, in which the 26-year-old Kim broke out with his finest performance to date, and provided offensive production from the nine spot. Kim went a combined 4-for-7 in his two starts, capped off with a 3-for-4 performance in the Padres’ 7-5 victory Thursday afternoon at Great American Ball Park.
Kim’s performance included a bases-clearing double in the top of the sixth inning to break the 2-2 tie. The score ended up being the difference in the game and put San Diego back ahead for good.
“I’m still trying to stay on my regular routine … not trying to do too much,” Kim said following Thursday’s win.
The other double was a 107.4 mph drive off of Reds reliever Dauri Moreta in the eighth inning that just missed being a home run.
“Yeah I wanted it to be out so bad … I’ll eat more and I’ll do more weight training,” Kim joked.
Padres manager Bob Melvin made the decision to platoon the two infielders throughout the season, but has struggled to find production out of that spot. With Tatis not expected to return to the lineup until June, several others have had to step up in his absence, with Kim being the newest on the road.
Getting the start on Tuesday, Kim answered the call almost immediately in the series opener, mashing a solo home run to left field to knot the score at one apiece in the third.
Kim understands that Tatis is the main engine of the Padres, and wants to focus on doing his role for Melvin until Tatis’ return, whether that puts him at shortstop, second base or third base on any given night.
On Thursday, Melvin called upon Kim to start in a different role, this time at third.
Between Kim's need to learn a new culture in the United States, meet new teammates and live in an unfamiliar place, Melvin believes that with a year under his belt and the many firsts out of the way, Kim can turn the corner and now focus on being a big leaguer.
As of Thursday, San Diego ranked in the bottom portion in the Majors in offensive production out of the shortstop spot, slashing just .164/.282/.299, but Kim could be turning the corner in year two as a Major Leaguer.
“I think this year is a completely different year for him,” Melvin said following Thursday’s game. “He came in this spring thinking, ‘OK, now I’m a big leaguer and now I go about my business the way I have my entire career.’”
“It’s definitely different, the comfort level,” Kim said.
Playing outside of his home country, Kim said his teammates, including Tatis, have made him feel comfortable since day one.
“They’ve been huge to me,” Kim said of his teammates' support during his transition to the United States. “I thought I was going to be a little lonely in the [United States], but they didn't make me think about that.”