Pirates notebook: Kang gets break after 34 consecutive starts
NEW YORK — For the first time since early July, Jung Ho Kang spent an entire Pirates game in the dugout.
His time on the bench Sunday represented something of a reward, though.
Unlike when he bounced in and out of the starting lineup in April and May because he had yet to establish himself as a go-to bat in the order, Kang saw no action in the finale of the New York Mets series because the Pirates plan to plug him into a starting spot again and again during the next two months.
After starts in 34 straight games, including the last 18 at shortstop, Kang took a break. No Pirates player had started more games in a row since July 5.
He joined center fielder Andrew McCutchen and catcher Francisco Cervelli, who also received rest days at the encouragement of manager Clint Hurdle.
“When guys get tired, they’re tired, and you need to get them out,” Hurdle said. “It’s not about trying to stagger them or figure out who is more important, who needs it first. For my money, Kang’s legs need a break. They (weren’t) playing at the plate. McCutchen has been running down balls and he’s gone more than we’ve anticipated.”
Kang rarely missed starts during his nine seasons in the Korean Baseball Organization, which holds games Tuesday through Sunday and keeps Mondays open for all teams.
He appeared in 120-plus games in five of his nine years in the KBO.
With 98 game appearances through Sunday, Kang might surpass his current career high for games in a season (133).
“I feel well rested now,” Kang said through his interpreter, H.K. Kim. “It’s a grind.”
His 1.064 on-base plus slugging percentage in July indicated he’s far from fading in the second half of the season. His .671 OPS in August is largely a product of his .283 on-base percentage. His worst month to this point was April, when he had a .310 OBP.
“He’s been very forthright with us about how he feels,” Hurdle said.
Until Jordy Mercer (left knee) and Josh Harrison (left thumb) come off the disabled list — the timetable for both still suggests a late August or early September return — Kang will serve as the keystone of the infield’s left side.
McCutchen hinted at how fortunate he, Kang and Cervelli were to have their health considered during the Pirates’ playoff chase.
“You’re not going to get many full (rest days), especially this time of year,” he said, “so I’ll take what I can get.”
Worley back at it in Indy
Right-hander Vance Worley, who was designated for assignment after the Pirates acquired Joe Blanton in late July and outrighted to Triple-A Indianapolis after clearing waivers, threw 75 pitches, including 45 for strikes, in five innings Saturday for the Indians after three weeks of game inactivity.
Worley, whose last game appearance with the Pirates was July 24, allowed three hits and two runs as he started and earned the win. He gave up a home run, struck out two and walked one.
He last threw 75-plus pitches in a game July 18 in Milwaukee. Prior to that, he last reached the 70-pitch mark May 31.
Burnett’s next step
A.J. Burnett again played catch from various distances Sunday, and his steady progress since going on the disabled list Aug. 3 with a flexor strain in his right elbow has Hurdle optimistic about the right-hander working off a mound later this week.
Hurdle took Burnett at his word that the elbow felt “good.”
“He’s not going to take the mound again if he feels like he did when he finished up,” Hurdle said. “It’s in nobody’s best interest. He’s really understanding of that, from a personal standpoint as well as a team standpoint.”