Pittsburgh Pirates third baseman Jung Ho Kang began his rehab assignment last night in Indianapolis. In joining the Triple-A Indians, Kang will look to fully return from the traumatic leg injury suffered in September of last season.
In his first non-simulated game action since that fateful slide from Cubs outfielder Chris Coghlan ended his debut season, Kang went 0-for-3, contributing with a walk and run scored.
Scheduled to play seven innings regardless of game situation or performance, Kang looked to have no ill effects from the injury, and ran the bases after taking a walk. In the field, Kang looked well-adjusted. At the plate, his timing was well off. That is to be expected as Kang faced his first true live-pitching in over six months. He was very patient and worked counts very well. When he did get a pitch to hit, his lack of timing caused him to be late in getting the bat into the zone.
His surprising level of comfort was likely a result of the extensive work put in by Kang at Extended Spring Training in Pirate City. During his weekly media availability, Pirates general manager Neal Huntington illuminated just how much work Kang had put in to get to this point.
“He’s got a good number of at-bats down in Extended Spring Training,” Huntington said. “We felt like it was time to get him out against some upper-level competition. He felt like he was ready to go face Triple-A, get his feet on the ground, speed of the game, quality of competition and see how he progresses through it.”
For the Pirates, the play of David Freese at third and the team’s run-creation efforts overall can afford them patience with Kang’s return. When the second-year South Korean product is ready, Huntington has indicated that he could picture a scenario that does not have Kang playing third base almost exclusively.
As per MLB rules, Kang can spend up to 20 days on the rehab assignment before he must rejoin the team. All signs point to a possible return when the club returns to PNC Park on April 29.
In other rehab assignment news, reliever Jared Hughes will begin his assignment on April 19. He, too, will join the Indians and has 30 days of rehab available under MLB rules.