ShareThis Page

With Kang's return date uncertain, Pirates evaluate fill-in 3B options

| Thursday, March 3, 2016, 9:12 p.m.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates third baseman Jason Rogers tries to barehand a ball during a game against the Blue Jays on Thursday, March 3, 2016, at McKechnie Field in Bradenton, Fla.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates third baseman Sean Rodriguez avoids a collision after tagging out the Tigers' James McCann during a spring training game Wednesday, March 2, 2016, at McKechnie Field in Bradenton, Fla.

BRADENTON, Fla. — The question most often asked in Pirates camp this spring is whether third baseman Jung Ho Kang will be ready for Opening Day. So far, there is no definitive answer.

Kang had surgery in September to repair damage to his left leg and knee after a collision at second base. He began working out at the Pirate City complex in January and this week is ramping up his on-field activities.

“We get reports on (Kang) on a daily basis,” first base coach Nick Leyva said. “Some days, it says it looks like he's going to be ready (April 3). Other days, it says it might be a week in. You never know.”

Kang is able to take batting practice, field ground balls and run straight sprints in the outfield. On Wednesday, athletic trainer Todd Tomczyk said Kang has not been cleared for baserunning.

It's possible some of Kang's workouts will be shifted to the back fields at Pirate City next week. It's unclear when he finally will appear in a Grapefruit League game.

With less than a month to go before the season opener, the Pirates are working through their options if Kang needs more time to get up to speed. Sean Rodriguez, Jason Rogers, Cole Figueroa and Pedro Florimon are getting time at third base this spring.

“We'll be ready,” Leyva said. “There are a lot of possibilities. Somebody will win the job.”

Josh Harrison appeared in 72 games at third last season. With Neil Walker gone, Harrison is slated to be the everyday second baseman — the position he's always preferred — and is not a candidate to fill in at third.

“For the time being, I haven't given it much thought,” Harrison said. “I'm prepared to play second every night. If (third base) comes up, we'll talk about it. Otherwise, if nothing's said to me, I'm prepared for second base.”

Sean Rodriguez is the most likely replacement for Kang. Last year, Rodriguez played in only eight games at third, not because he can't handle the position but because Pedro Alvarez was a disaster at first base.

“One of Sean's special traits is he can play five different positions in a game and probably make three remarkable plays at each one of those spots,” general manager Neal Huntington said.

Manager Clint Hurdle has said he wants to use Rodriguez at spots other than first base more often this year.

“Whatever gets me on the field,” Rodriguez said. “I want to play, just like anybody else. If playing third more means more opportunity, that means I get to stick my hand in the cookie jar more often, twirl it around and hopefully pull out some more cookies for this team.”

Rodriguez played third base Wednesday. Thursday, Jason Rogers started there against the Toronto Blue Jays.

Rogers was an outfielder and later a first baseman with the Milwaukee Brewers. The Pirates acquired him in December knowing he's made just one career start at third base.

“Game-wise, yeah, not that much experience,” Rogers said. “It's all right, though. It's something I work on every day, trying to get the footwork down. It's all about preparation. In times past, I didn't really prepare myself like I should have, and it backfired on me.”

Rogers hit .286 with four homers in 94 games with the Brewers but never found a steady gig. He knows he'll have to fill a utility role if he breaks camp with the Pirates.

“I have no set position,” he said. “Outfield, third, first … anytime my name's in the lineup, I have to take advantage of it.”

Rob Biertempfel is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at or via Twitter @BiertempfelTrib.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.