Archive

ShareThis Page
Kang says he ‘can play better’ than Pirates current SS Mercer | TribLIVE.com
Pirates/MLB

Kang says he ‘can play better’ than Pirates current SS Mercer

PTRBucs03011515
Christopher Horner | Trib Total Media
Pirates shortstop Jordy Mercer waits to take batting practice during a voluntary workout Tuesday, Jan. 13, 2015, at Pirate City in Bradenton, Fla.

BRADENTON, Fla. — In his first season as starting shortstop, Jordy Mercer last year led the Pirates in games played. He put up solid numbers at the plate and was reliable in the field.

At 28 years old, Mercer is in what should be his peak years. He will not be eligible for salary arbitration until after the 2015 season, so Mercer provides great production at a bargain price.

Yet Mercer knows he can’t assume he’ll be in the lineup Opening Day.

“There’s no relaxing,” Mercer said Wednesday. “You have to continue to get better and strive for excellence.”

A craving for success is one reason Mercer is the only starting position player attending the team’s voluntary workouts this week. Another reason was sitting on an airplane bound for Pittsburgh while Mercer was on the fields at Pirate City.

Korean infielder Jung-ho Kang is scheduled to visit PNC Park on Thursday to have a physical and finalize a free agent contract.

He reportedly will get a four-year, $16 million deal, with an option for 2019.

Kang, 27, was a power-hitting shortstop for the Nexen Heroes in the Korea Baseball Organization. The Pirates will gauge his performance during spring training to determine whether he fits best at shortstop, third base or second base.

After committing at least $21 million — the Pirates paid a posting fee of a little more than $5 million to Nexen to gain exclusive negotiating rights — management doesn’t intend to put Kang in a holding pattern at Triple-A Indianapolis. He’s coming to America to play in the big leagues, whether it’s every day or off the bench.

During a news conference Tuesday at Incheon Airport in Seoul, Kang made it clear what he wants.

“If I get an opportunity to play consistently, I think I can play better (than Mercer),” he told the Yonhap News Agency. “I think I’ll have to talk to the team about my position, but I’d like to play shortstop.”

Thanks to Twitter, Mercer found out about Kang’s comments late Tuesday. The next morning, while he prepared for a two-hour workout, Mercer had only good things to say about his new teammate.

“Bringing in guys definitely can help the club,” Mercer said. “I think (management) has made the right choices so far, as far as adding pieces to our club. Adding a guy like him can help us get to where we want to be: in the World Series.”

And what of Kang’s claim on the starting job at short?

“It’s good to see he’s got confidence coming in,” Mercer said. “All of us can use that, for sure. If we all set our sights on one goal and have confidence in our ability, the sky is the limit for this team. So it’s exciting to see it.”

In the hitter-friendly KBO, Kang last year hit .356 with 40 home runs and a league-best 1.198 on-base plus slugging percentage. Mercer batted .255 with 12 homers and a .693 OPS.

Ryan Sadowski, who pitched three seasons in the KBO, said Kang can be inconsistent defensively.

“At times, he showed he was capable of making the spectacular play,” Sadowski said. “At other times, he’d kind of goof off on a routine play. If you run a hard 90 feet (to first base) every time and put that pressure on Kang, he’s more likely to make an error.”

Mercer made 11 errors in 144 games at shortstop last season. His nine defensive runs saved ranked sixth best in the majors.

According to Baseball Info Solutions, Mercer made 350 throws to first base and had zero throwing errors and no misplays caused by poor throws. Among 13 shortstops who made at least 300 throws to first, Mercer is the only one who did not have at least three wild throws and/or misplays.

Rob Biertempfel is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at rbiertempfel@tribweb.com or via Twitter @BiertempfelTrib.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com 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.