The Pittsburgh Pirates named Erik Gonzalez and Jung Ho Kang their starters at shortstop and third base, respectively, general manager Neal Huntington told reporters on Monday.
Gonzalez was competing with Kevin Newman, a former first-round pick. Kang beat out incumbent Colin Moran, whose range was an issue last season and has committed four errors this spring.
“We felt like Kang and Gonzalez, at this point in time, were our best defensive tandem,” Huntington told MLB.com. “That’s a big part of why we went with this decision.”
The Pirates acquired Gonzalez from the Cleveland Indians in a five-player trade in November. He has batted .233 with one home run and 5 RBIs this spring but has greater defensive range than Newman.
Kang missed the majority of the past two years, sitting out all of the 2017 season with visa issues following a DUI arrest and then most of last season with a wrist injury that required surgery. He hit 36 home runs with 120 RBI in the 2015 and ‘16 seasons. Kang is 5 for 28 this spring (.179) but all five hits have been home runs and Huntington called his power “obviously a threat.” Moran slashed .277/.340/.407 with 11 homers and 58 RBI last season.
Newman, batting .276 with two doubles, one homer and five RBIs, could play some second base and serve as a backup at both positions. Moran, who is hitting .214 with one homer and six RBIs, also could play some first base.
“We still like Newman and Moran and believe they’re going to be a big part of this club,” Huntington said.