I didn’t think Jung Ho Kang would ever be able to return to the Pirates, so I was surprised when the news came out on Thursday that he was granted a visa to get back into the US and continue playing baseball.
The news raises a lot of questions, especially since the Pirates have moved on at third base with Colin Moran. It probably raises some feelings as well, since Kang’s whole visa issue came as a result of him getting busted for his third DUI in Korea, after he lied about the existence of the first two.
There are a lot of questions surrounding Kang’s future with the team, but the truth is that no one really has answers. A lot of his future will be impossible to predict, based on the fact that he hasn’t played regularly in over a year. Anyone saying what the team will do in the future with Kang is just guessing, based on a positive or negative return.
I’m going to go through some of the questions surrounding Kang’s return today. However, don’t expect answers for all of the questions.
How Will Kang Impact the Clubhouse?
I’m going to ignore the on-field stuff and focus on how Kang will impact the mood of the clubhouse. I’ve had at least one person ask if this could be a distraction. I don’t think it’s going to be a distraction or a concern, or anything that will bring ill feelings out of the team. Just take a look at Alan’s article of how the team reacted to the news to see why I feel this way.
Dusting Off the Rust
One of the big questions is when will Kang be able to return to the field, and that has no answer. He’s going to be playing at Pirate City while remaining on the restricted list, so the Pirates have some time with him. He tried to return in the Dominican Republic over the offseason, but his performance was so poor that he was released from the team early, which is a move you see for prospects trying to play in that league, but rarely something you see for an MLB player.
I don’t think anyone should expect Kang to return quickly. If he does, and returns anything close to the player he was before, then it would be a massive surprise in my view. At this point, I don’t think it would be guaranteed that he could return as the player he was before, at least not this year.
How Does His Contract Work?
This is one where we have an answer. Kang’s contract resumes as normal, and any missed time is just missed time. He’ll be under contract the remainder of this year (although only paid for the time when he’s not on the restricted list). At that point, the Pirates will have an option decision to make for next year, with the chance to keep him around for $5.5 M, or the chance to decline that deal for $250,000.
What Position Will He Play?
This question is fueled by the fact that Colin Moran is at third base now, with the Pirates moving on from Kang. It’s a tough situation for Neal Huntington. He was criticized for not finding a replacement for Kang last year while he was expecting Kang to return and help the team. This year he found a replacement, and did so by trading Gerrit Cole, and then Kang is able to return.
Moran is under control longer than Kang, so I’d be surprised if Kang takes the third base position back. I also don’t see him as an option at shortstop, since that was basically ruled out after his knee injury in 2015. Second base might be an option, assuming the team moves on from Josh Harrison after the 2018 season. And there’s also the question for any position of how he can return after a long layoff.
The team needs to see how Kang returns before deciding where he will play. My guess here is that he’ll return in a bench role at first to see how he can adjust back to the game, and try to win a starting job going forward. It will probably be very similar to how he joined the team in 2015.
The summary here is that the Pirates have Kang under control through the 2019 season. They don’t need to rush him back, since his build up will take place on the restricted list. There’s no telling when he’ll be ready, or how good he will be when he returns, either on offense or defense. As a result, there’s no way to tell where he will end up playing when he returns.
All we really know is that Kang is back, he’s under control through 2019, the team has no issues with it, and everything else is a big question mark from there.
Today’s Starter and Notes: The Pittsburgh Pirates won 6-5 in 11 innings over the St Louis Cardinals on Friday night. The Pirates will send Trevor Williams to the mound tomorrow night for his sixth start. He has gone six innings in each of his last three starts, allowing a total of five runs on nine hits. The Cardinals will counter with 22-year-old right-handed pitcher Jack Flaherty, who is making his seventh MLB start. He had nine strikeouts and one run allowed over five innings in his only start this season.
The minor league schedule includes the fourth start from Mitch Keller, who allowed three runs over seven innings in his last start. He’s holding batters to a .172 BAA and he has a 1.75 GO/AO ratio. Eduardo Vera will start for Bradenton during today’s doubleheader. He has an 0.88 WHIP, with a .214 BAA and just three walks. No starter has been named for game two yet, but James Marvel was the regularly scheduled starter for today. Casey Sadler will get the start for Indianapolis. It’s his second start of the season and first since the opening weekend. Ike Schlabach will go for West Virginia in his third start. He threw five shutout innings on one hit in his last game.
MLB: Pittsburgh (15-11) vs Cardinals (15-10) 7:05 PM
Probable starter: Trevor Williams (2.15 ERA, 21:15 SO/BB, 29.1 IP)
AAA: Indianapolis (10-8) @ Columbus (8-11) 7:15 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Casey Sadler (7.00 ERA, 8:6 SO/BB, 9.0 IP)
AA: Altoona (9-9) @ Harrisburg (8-11) 6:00 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Mitch Keller (1.93 ERA, 20:7 SO/BB, 18.2 IP)
High-A: Bradenton (11-9) @ Jupiter (16-4) 5:30 PM DH (season preview)
Probable starter: Eduardo Vera (3.38 ERA, 15:3 SO/BB, 24.0 IP) and TBD
Low-A: West Virginia (11-10) @ Lexington (11-9) 6:35 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Ike Schlabach (4.02 ERA, 13:7 SO/BB, 15.2 IP)
From Wednesday in Altoona, a long home run from Logan Hill, who has been off to a slow start this season.
Logan Hill puts one on the hill, his second blast of the season pic.twitter.com/se5pGMWyPv
— Altoona Curve (@AltoonaCurve) April 25, 2018
4/27: Bo Schultz promoted to Indianapolis. Adam Oller promoted to Bradenton.
4/27: Gavin Wallace placed on disabled list. Beau Sulser and Drew Fischer added to West Virginia.
4/26: Todd Cunningham traded to Chicago White Sox for a player to be named later.
4/25: Rafelin Lorenzo placed on West Virginia disabled list. Raul Hernandez added to roster
4/25: Released Julio Gonzalez from DSL Pirates
4/25: Jose Osuna recalled for Wednesday’s doubleheader.
4/21: Sergio Cubilete placed on disabled list. Hunter Stratton added to West Virginia roster.
4/20: Pablo Reyes promoted to Indianapolis. Brett McKinney assigned to Morgantown.
4/20: Kevin Krause released. Bralin Jackson and Jordan George added to Altoona roster.
4/20: AJ Schugel assigned to Indianapolis on rehab.
4/18: Dylan Prohoroff placed on West Virginia DL. Matt Seelinger added to WV roster.
4/17: Brent Gibbs retired.
THIS DATE IN PIRATES HISTORY
Seven former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date, all of them pitchers. Recent pitchers include former first round draft pick Daniel Moskos, high-priced Cuban signing Yoslan Herrera and Romulo Sanchez, who pitched for the team during the 2007-08 seasons.
Older pitchers born on this date include Pedro Ramos (1969), Tom Sturdivant (1961-63) and Walt Woods, who pitched for the Pirates on April 27,1900, one day before his 25th birthday. Woods had a 20-year career in pro ball, but he played in the majors during just three of those years.
The final pitcher born on this date was Red Lucas, who played five seasons for the Pirates, from 1934 until 1938. He went 47-32 during his time with Pittsburgh and Lucas has a very under-appreciated career. He won a total of 157 games, he made just 12 errors during his entire 14-year career and he was a .281 career hitter over 1,606 plate appearances. Lucas was used as a pinch-hitter almost 500 times, and he occasionally played infield during his career.
The link above also includes a trade from the 1910 season, where the Pirates tried to improve their pitching staff by giving up two players to the Boston Doves for Kirby White. Two years into his career at the time of the trade, White had 2.94 ERA over 174.1 innings, pitching for a Boston team that was awful. He seemed like a solid pickup for the Pirates and they didn’t give up much to get him, but he went 10-10, 3.46 in 153.1 innings for a strong Pirates team and then never pitched in the majors again after May, 1911.