BRADENTON, Fla. – Jung-ho Kang took another big step in his rehab today. Kang played in the field at third base today in a minor league game at Pirate City, which was the first time he has played on the field in a live game since his surgery. He went five innings, and made a play at third to close out the fifth inning, charging a slow chopper and getting the runner at first for the out (pictured above).
Kang wasn’t perfect on the field, missing a close ball earlier in the game, and didn’t look the smoothest on the play in the fifth, but it was a good step for him to finally get out there.
“It’s good,” Kang said through a translator after the game on how his fielding felt. “It’s not 100% yet, but it’s good.”
He was limited to defense only today, and didn’t take any at-bats. He’s still not to the point where he can hit and run out of the batter’s box in a game. Previously, Kang had been hitting during intrasquad games, but it was glorified live batting practice, as he didn’t run after hitting.
Kang ran the bases after today’s game, going from home to second, and first to third. This is also not new, although it looked like he was going with a little more effort and making sharper cuts around the bags. Kang said that he’s responding well to the running, and that he’s feeling good with his progression.
The Pirates have continued to say that Kang won’t be ready to return until mid-to-late April. At this point, he looks good enough to play five innings on the field, but he’s not to the point where he can hit and run the bases yet. When he combines the two, he will then have a process of building up his innings, eventually getting to the point where he can play two full games back-to-back. Based on his progress today, it looks like he’s still on pace for that mid-to-late April return.