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Notes: King of the hill
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07/12/2003  6:42 PM ET 
Notes: King of the hill
Byung-Hyun Kim in command as closer
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Byung-Hyun Kim has been the answer to Boston's closer problems since hitting the bullpen July 1. (Charles Krupa/AP)
DETROIT -- Since Byung-Hyun Kim was installed as the closer for the Red Sox on July 1, there has been just one brief moment that proved capable of flustering him.

It came not from an opposing hitter, but from his own manager.

Grady Little told Kim to intentionally walk Jason Giambi, who is one of the most dangerous hitters in the game.

There were two outs and nobody on base in that game at Yankee Stadium, which was played on July 7.

Kim respects Giambi as much as anyone. But he was up to the challenge.

"He shows he's not scared," Sox catcher Jason Varitek said. "He doesn't care who's up there. An example was intentionally walking [Jason] Giambi in New York. I haven't seen a pitcher get that mad for not being able to face him."

A couple of days later in Toronto, Kim was able to convince Little that there was no reason to walk Carlos Delgado, perhaps the only left-handed hitter in the American League who is as feared as Giambi. The result? Kim baffled Delgado with high heat.

Yes, the closer's role is no longer a concern for the Red Sox. In the span of less than two weeks, the bullpen has gone from a huge issue of concern to one of the strengths of the team.

It all starts with Kim, who has set a tone with his fearlessness and his nasty stuff.

Kim saved 36 games for the Diamondbacks last season and posted a stingy 2.04 ERA. But he convinced Arizona manager Bob Brenly to make him a starter this season. Kim remained a starter initially after the Sox acquired him in a trade on May 28 for Shea Hillenbrand.

But the late-inning losses weren't going away for the Sox, leaving Little no choice but to make Kim his closer.

It didn't take much of an adjustment for Kim, who has a thorough understanding of the difference between the two roles.

"You have to close the door," said the 24-year-old Kim. "Instead of trying to hit the corners, you have to really challenge the hitter."

Kim doesn't care how potent that hitter might be.

"When I was in Arizona and (Barry) Bonds came up and there were two outs and nobody on base, (Brenly) asked me to walk him," said Kim. "As a player, I like to challenge the hitter. Mariano Rivera probably wouldn't want to walk a hitter. Giambi and Bonds, these are great hitters. Hopefully one day I can face them in those situations."

Since moving back to his old role, Kim has converted all four of his save opportunities and hasn't permitted an earned run in seven outings.

The Boston bullpen hasn't given up an earned run in the last 15 1/3 innings and has posted a 2.38 ERA since Kim's arrival.

"I enjoy starting, but the team needs me to be the closer right now," Kim said.

Fossum is bullpen-bound: Kim should have another key support member by next week, when left-hander Casey Fossum is expected to come off the disabled list.

Fossum was in the rotation before shoulder tendinitis forced him to shut it down on June 8. In 12 starts, he was 4-4 with a 5.76 ERA.

However, after a couple of weeks of debate, Little has decided that Fossum will work out of the pen when he returns.

Relief is nothing new for Fossum. He was Boston's left-handed setup man for the first three months of last season, moving out of that role when Alan Embree was acquired in a trade. This time, Fossum will work in tandem with Embree to give the Sox two lefties out of the pen.

Fossum picked up a save for Triple-A Pawtucket Friday night.

"Casey was great last night and today he feels good," Little said. "Things are looking very optimistic for him for after the All-Star break. He'll pitch again on Monday for Portland. And then we'll go from there."

Giambi working the kinks out: DH Jeremy Giambi should be activated around the same time as Fossum. The left-handed swinger was plagued by shoulder bursitis and placed on the disabled list on June 28. Now that he's healthy, he's trying to get into the type of hitting groove at Pawtucket that has eluded him all season.

What kind of reports has Little been getting on Giambi's swing?

"Some days good, some days not so good," Little said. "Healthwise, he's fine. I think it won't be too long before we (activate) him."

Lining them up: Following the All-Star break, the Sox will host the Blue Jays in a four-game series. The pitching order in that series will be Derek Lowe, Tim Wakefield, Ramiro Mendoza and Pedro Martinez.

John Burkett's first start of the second half will come against the Tigers on July 21.

Lowe will be available for bullpen action Sunday at Comerica Park, as the first half comes to a close.

"Hopefully we won't have to use him at all," Little said. "He'll be available in case something extraordinary happens in the game."

Signed and sealed: The Red Sox signed yet another draft pick Saturday, announcing that they have come to terms with outfielder Mickey Hall, who was the second of their second-round selections. The Sox tabbed Hall -- a graduate of Walton high school in Marietta, Ga. -- with the 54th overall pick.

The Sox have now signed 19 of their first 20 picks.

Down on the farm: Left-hander Bruce Chen, who made two starts for the Sox this season, fired seven innings of shutout ball for Pawtucket Friday night, earning his first win ... Juan Perez has 10 saves for Single-A Sarasota.

Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.



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