BRADENTON, Fl. — Probably the most encouraging thing about today’s events at Pirate City would be the progression shown by Jung-ho Kang. The third baseman is recovering from major knee surgery last year, which was expected to put him out for six to eight months. That would have put him out until mid-May at the latest, and the start of the season on an optimistic timeline. It looks like he could be ready for Opening Day based on the progression he has shown. However, he wasn’t exactly committing to that timeline when I asked if he’d be ready by Opening Day.
“I don’t know,” Kang responded in plain English with a smile, after the question was translated.
Along with the improved health, Kang has definitely improved his English. He was able to answer a few questions in English today, and even answered one question without needing it to be translated. That question was about how he feels right now. The answer? “Good. Much better.”
Kang has hit a lot of milestones lately. He started hitting last week and taking ground balls outside. He did both today, while also reaching a new milestone by throwing across the diamond for the first time. He also started running with 100% full weight-bearing on his knee last week, which is an encouraging sign, since that’s the main thing related to his injury.
As for whether he could return to shortstop, Kang said he didn’t know yet.
“Doctor said it’s going to get better, and we’ll see where it takes me,” Kang said via translator.
The play which took Kang out last year was a hard slide by Chris Coghlan, and that play is now leading to a rule change after a similar play injured Ruben Tejada in the post-season. Kang is in favor of such a rule change.
“It’s to help protect the players, so I think it’s a good idea,” Kang said.
The injury to Kang was pretty major, although he looks to be recovering well from the injury. Here are some videos from today’s workouts.
Jung-ho Kang taking grounders at third. No throws yet. #Pirates
A video posted by Pirates Prospects (@piratesprospects) on
Jung-ho Kang getting some work in the cages #Pirates
A video posted by Pirates Prospects (@piratesprospects) on
The Pirates could really use Kang in the lineup and back to his pre-injury self on Opening Day. Last year, Kang was on fire in the second half, hitting for a .392 wOBA and a 154 wRC+. By comparison, Andrew McCutchen had a .379/146 during the same span. Kang’s numbers ranked 19th (wOBA) and 15th (wRC+) in the second half out of qualified players in all of baseball.
Having another guy with Andrew McCutchen’s numbers would be a huge boost to the offense in 2016, especially if that player is in the lineup from Opening Day. Time will tell if that ends up being the case for Kang, but right now, the rehab results are encouraging.
Tim started Pirates Prospects in 2009 from his home in Virginia, which was 40 minutes from where Pedro Alvarez made his pro debut in Lynchburg. That year, the Lynchburg Hillcats won the Carolina League championship, and Pirates Prospects was born from Tim's reporting along the way. The site has grown over the years to include many more writers, and Tim has gone on to become a credentialed MLB reporter, producing Pirates Prospects each year, and will publish his 11th Prospect Guide this offseason. He has also served as the Pittsburgh Pirates correspondent for Baseball America since 2019. Behind the scenes, Tim is an avid music lover, and most of the money he gets paid to run this site goes to vinyl records.
Great news on Kang.
From what I read about the rule change discussions, while the union wants to protect infielders, it also wants to preserve players’ ability to break up double plays. To me the solution is simple. When a DP is in play, the runner should be required to keep his body PARALLEL to the base path during the slide. If he slides “sideways”, it should be an automatic two outs. I can see allowing the “sideways” slide on a stretch double or base steal where you are avoiding a tag, but there is no need for it on a DP ball or force play. You can still break up a DP sliding straight if the infielder is close enough to the bag. If the infielder is where Kang was, then too bad, don’t ground into a double play next time. Just my opinion!
This is great to see. I was reading today that David Freese is still out there. Maybe it would be worth picking up as an insurance policy, also leaving open the option of giving Kang some time at short. I’d be for it.
I read that as well and didn’t hate it. Or juan uribe.
I thought about both Freese and Uribe. Uribe showed he was willing to accept a bench role last year, but I would wonder if Freese would be willing to do the same. Either would be a nice boost to bench who could also give Hanson a bit more time to develop.
Great to see him progressing so well. Hopefully he’s in the line up from day one.
The leg and where it was grafted looks nasty.
Was it not his left knee & leg that was injured?
Correct. His left leg/knee was injured during his pivot to 1B.
I am confused by this…..did he really require skin grafts for the knee injury?
They appear to be tattoos.
Tattoos of skin graphs, perhaps
Best news of the day!!!!!!!
Dude has some solid upper body muscle.
Good for that young guy. He must have worked hard on his early rehab, that’s for sure. One minor correction : it wasn’t Utley that was injured, it was Reuben Tejada that Utley took down.
Good news about Cole Tucker this morning and even better news regarding Kang – great news day for the Pirates. He is a major part of the team going into 2016 and provides the Bucs a lot of possible options if he can be physically capable of playing SS and 3B.
Also heard Nick Kingham is has been throwing from120 ft since December. I wonder what his timeline is?
Just checked the P2 Guide and the info about throwing at 120′ in December is stated. Also referencing the Guide, the plan is to have him throwing bullpens by the end of ST. He was operated on in May 2015 and rehab is usually 12-14 months, so anything better than a bullpen by May 2016 will be aggressive, but not out of the realm of possibility. If everything goes well in his rehab starts, he could be ready by late Summer?
This is great stuff! Nice work Tim! Can baseball season start today, please?