Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Kang, Gonzalez Win Jobs as Opening Day Starters

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Kang, Gonzalez Win Jobs as Opening Day Starters

Article excerpt

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. - With a week remaining in spring training, the Pirates have themselves the left side of an infield.

The Pirates selected Jung Ho Kang as their starting third baseman, general manager Neal Huntington said Monday, and Erik Gonzalez as their shortstop. Kang beat out incumbent Colin Moran after missing all but three games of the past two seasons because of a denied visa application, which stemmed from a DUI in his native South Korea. Gonzalez will start ahead of Kevin Newman, the Pirates' first-round pick in 2015.

"Not an easy decision. All four guys, in their own way, had legitimate claims to become the regular," Huntington said. "We've let them know that this is not a 162-game, set-in-stone decision, but we've also let them know that these guys aren't looking over their shoulders and this isn't going to be an every other game-type situation."

After declining Kang's $5.5 million club option for 2019, they re-signed him for $3 million. A December 2016 DUI prevented Kang from entering the country in 2017, and even after he received a waiver of inadmissibility to enter the U.S. last April, working himself back into baseball shape and wrist surgery kept him from playing in all but the final three games of the season.

This year, Kang entered camp in the best shape he has been in as a Pirate and is moving as well as, or possibly better than, 2015, his first year in Major League Baseball. A serious knee injury ended his season in September. He has five hits in 28 at-bats with 13 strikeouts this spring. All five hits were home runs.

"Kang's power, obviously, is a threat. He's going to get a base hit somewhere along the way," Huntington joked.

Moran had a .340 on-base percentage, 11 home runs and a .277 average in 2018, his first season with the Pirates after being part of the Gerrit Cole trade with the Astros. …

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