Pittsburgh Pirates Grapefruit League Game 28: Jung Ho Kang To Play SS


Another day, another Grapefruit League game for the Pittsburgh Pirates

The Pittsburgh Pirates are now less than a week away from the start of their 2019 regular season. On Friday afternoon, they will travel to Port Charlotte to battle the Tampa Bay Rays in the 28th game of their Grapefruit League schedule.

When the Pirates and Rays play ball on Friday afternoon, the Bucs will do some experimenting with their lineup. On top of playing someone different at shortstop, the team will also be starting a reliever.

Earlier this week, general manager Neal Huntington announced that Jung Ho Kang would be the team’s starting third baseman this season. Prior to suffering a catastrophic knee injury in September of 2015, Kang had become the team’s starting shorstop. He also played some shortstop in the minor leagues last season.

During this offseason, Huntington said Kang was no longer an option to play shortstop on a daily basis. This contributed to the team acquiring Erik Gonzalez from the Cleveland Indians in a five-player trade to be the team’s starting shortstop. However, the team will still get Kang work at shortstop.

On Friday afternoon, Kang will start at shorstop. Pirate fans should not get used to seeing this, though.

According to manager Clint Hurdle the team needs a plan for ’emergency situations’ at shortstop. This is why Kang will get the start at shortstop on Friday. Kevin Newman, who is battling for a spot on the Opening Day roster as a utility infielder, will also make the trip to Port Charlotte. So, odds are, at some point Newman will replace Kang at shortstop.

The Pirates getting Kang work at shortstop could be an indication of what the Opening Day bench will be. It appears the bench is trending toward being made up of Newman, catcher Jacob Stallings, outfielder Melky Cabrera, corner infielder Colin Moran, and super utility man Pablo Reyes. Both Newman and Reyes can play shortstop, which should have the Bucs covered at the position.

With Kang getting work at shortstop, this may indicate that the team does not plan to take both Newman and Reyes north. It could also be a sign that they plan to carry three catchers, due to Stallings being out of minor league options, when Elias Diaz joins the active roster which should come in early-to-mid April.

We will have to wait and see.

In addition to Kang playing shortstop, Francisco Liriano, who will likely be a member of the Opening Day bullpen, will start on the mound. This will likely be a multi-innings outing for Liriano. Outside of an appearance against the Yankees in which Liriano walked all four batters he faced, the veteran lefty has allowed just one run on four hits, two walks, and five strikeouts in 8 innings pitched this spring.

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Friday’s first pitch is scheduled for 1:05 PM. You can listen to the game on pirates.com or the MLB At Bat App. Also, if you have a MLB.tv account, you can watch the game on MLB.tv or the At Bat App.