Ahead of next month’s mandatory report date in Florida, new Pittsburgh Pirates infielder Jung-ho Kang is already training in the United States as he prepares for the transition to Major League Baseball.
Per a Baseball America report, the Korean slugger is working out in Arizona with members of the Nexen Heroes coaching staff – his former team in the Korea Baseball Organization – in hopes of being ready for Spring Training with his new team in mere weeks.
As Rum Bunter co-editor David Hill noted in a recent piece, Pirates general manager Neal Huntington offered comments to MLB Network Radio clarifying Kang’s possible role in the organization moving forward, saying he expects him to play all over the infield – perhaps similarly to how Josh Harrison moved around for the team last season.
With the team still lacking a quality option in the cleanup role, Kang could be a potential fit there after leading the KBO with 40 home runs to go along with a stellar .356/.459/.739 slash line in his final season overseas. For now, he says he is just hoping to be as prepared as possible heading into camp with the Pirates.
"“Since it’s the best baseball in the world,” Kang said through interpreter and agent Jae Woong Han, “I’m trying to be ready for everything that I can do before I go to Florida.”"
One major difference between the KBO and MLB seasons, as pointed out by Baseball America, is the length of season. The Major League Baseball regular season spans 162 games while in Korea, the season is just 128 games long. However, when speaking with reporters, he showed little worry – saying he could always adjust his routine next spring if need be.
For years, the Tampa Bay Rays have utilized the bat of Ben Zobrist all over the diamond – simply to keep his offense in the lineup on a regular basis. Last season, for example, the utilityman appeared in games at second base, shortstop, right, center and left fields – as well as designated hitter. If Kang can replicate that type of role for Clint Hurdle‘s Pirates, the team could have an incredibly valuable asset as they pursue their first division title since 1992.
As for Kang, he appears open to the idea – although he would prefer to eventually settle in at one position after inking a four-year, $11 million contract this offseason.
"“Being a utility man is always an advantage,” Kang said, “but if I can settle into one position it might be a better option. But it’s baseball,” he said. “Baseball is baseball. I’m prepared.”"
He may not have even made his first professional plate appearance yet, but one thing is for sure. When the team breaks camp next month, all eyes will be on Jung-ho Kang.