This afternoon, the Pittsburgh Pirates announced that they have have recalled infielder Jung Ho Kang from his Triple-A rehab stint in Indianapolis and have reinstated him from the 15-day disabled list. To make room for Kang on the active roster, the Pirates sent infielder Jason Rogers to Indianapolis.
On Sept. 17, Kang injured his left knee on a slide from Chicago Cubs outfielder Chris Coghlan. Kang missed the remainder of the season, as well as the National League Wild Card game, and required surgery, as well. After almost eight months of rehabilitation, Kang is back and healthy enough to rejoin the team. However, his return is bound to bring up some questions regarding how the roster may be changed and what to expect from him after a long rehab.
Despite being out for the first month of this season, Kang is undoubtedly the Pirates starting third baseman, thus pushing David Freese to a bench role. Freese, who has had some struggles this season when it comes to being strikeout prone, has been a stellar fill in overall, hitting .291 with one home run and nine RBI this season. The Pirates already have a stellar bench highlighted by Sean Rodriguez and Matt Joyce, so Freese will likely make it even stronger and give the Pirates even more depth than they already had.
When it comes to expectations for Kang following his long rehabilitation, there very well may be some struggles from him at the beginning. He has been away from in game action at the major league level for awhile, and it’s hard to expect him to get to his 2015 form right away.
With that being said, it would also not be a surprise to see him have an impact right from the get go. Prior to his season-ending injury, Kang was having a terrific first year in the big leagues as the first position player to ever come from the Korean Baseball Organization to Major League Baseball. Last season, Kang hit .287 with 15 home runs and 58 RBI in 126 games while finishing third in the National League Rookie of the Year voting. Even after one season, Kang truly means a lot to this Pirates lineup, and he has even become a pioneer when it comes to Korean baseball players who want to play in America.
This season, the Pirates are one of the best offensive teams in baseball. Based on their 15-13 record, this may come as a shock, but it’s true. They’re not a huge home run hitting team, as they rank 18th in baseball with 26 total team home runs, but they find a way to score runs in different ways. As a team they are second in baseball in team batting average (.282), walks (118) and hits (280). They have a different formula for scoring runs than other teams around the big leagues, but Kang is bound to help in the home run category, as well.
Kang’s return will do nothing but help the Pirates improve on offesne. He also serves as a versatile defender who can provide stellar defense at third base while even becoming an option to start a few games at shortstop and second base.
Only time will tell how Kang transitions, but the Pirates are wasting no time to see how he is feeling. He will be in tonight’s starting lineup against St Louis, hitting sixth and playing third base. First pitch is set for 8:05 p.m. at Busch Stadium as the Pirates begin a nine-game road trip against three National League Central foes.
The Pirates and Marlins have moved their May 30 and 31 series from Puerto Rico to Miami due to concerns about the Zika virus.