Pirates notebook: Kang’s injury prompts Hurdle to suggest re-examining slide rules
LOS ANGELES — Clint Hurdle did not want to be emotionally charged when he met with media after Thursday’s loss to the Chicago Cubs, so he waited until after his postgame press briefing to watch video of the season-ending injury to infielder Jung Ho Kang.
The Pirates manager tired to speak objectively when he spoke about Chris Coghlan’s costly slide with Joe Garagiola Jr., MLB’s vice president of standards and on-field operations. In the hours since Coghlan’s right leg crashed into Kang’s planted left knee, Hurdle sought out video of hard slides at second base from the past two seasons and found “there were a bunch,” including many by Pirates players.
Hurdle hopes the conversation he had with Garagiola, and the injury to Kang, leads to eliminating contact around second base — just as the sport amended its rules to end home-plate collisions after the injury to San Francisco Giants catcher Buster Posey.
“By definition, they are legal slides (at second). Is there a way we can change the definition of a legal slide to possibly ensure better safety?” Hurdle said. “We always want to try to find a way to ensure safety to the best of our abilities without taking away from the game. I think we’ve been able to do that at home plate. The amended rule to home plate (collisions) has turned out to be excellent for the game. Those crashes at home plate have gone away.
“(Garagiola) was great in saying, ‘If we were going to write a rule today, what would be some of the thoughts you would have? … It’s a starting point that I know will have traction and momentum moving forward.”
Kang was not the first Pirates player to be hurt in a collision near second base this season. Jordy Mercer, who missed six weeks after the Brewers’ Carlos Gomez took out his left knee on a slide in July, doesn’t think there should be a rule change.
“It’s just the way the game has been played forever,” Mercer said. “It’s just unfortunate two guys on the same team have been hurt.”
Was Coghlan’s slide dirty?
“I don’t think it was a dirty play,” Mercer said. “Do I think he could have slid differently and not risk injury? Yeah.”
According to baseball writer Peter Gammons, when Kang’s agent, Alan Nero, heard of death threats being made to Coghlan in South Korea, he called Kang and produced the statement released Thursday to absolve Coghlan of fault.
Hurdle said Kang was resting Friday and that his family was flying from South Korea to be with him in Pittsburgh.
Life after Kang began Friday for the Pirates against the Dodgers. Aramis Ramirez started at third, Mercer at shortstop and Pedro Alvarez at first base. Will Ramirez receive most of the work at third base going forward?
“That’s one of the possibility,” Hurdle said.
Will Mercer get the majority of work at shortstop?
“That’s a possibility as well. A very good one,” Hurdle said.
By most measures, Kang ranks as the Pirates’ second-best bat after Andrew McCutchen. He’s also the club’s best defensive third baseman. Will Hurdle try to mitigate the loss by fielding more defensive-oriented lineups or offensive ones?
Hurdle indicated he will place a greater premium on defense.
“One of the challenges we’ve had has been on the defensive side of the ball. That’s the one I’m really wrestling with right now,” Hurdle said. “We need to play 27 outs more than ever.
“I don’t know if we can replicate (Kang’s) offense. At third base, Ramirez is the most offensive guy … and then you have (Josh) Harrison. Will Harrison fit at times? Yeah, he will.”
A different game
Part of the reason Kang might have been injured was because he was not accustomed to second-base collisions in playing professionally in South Korea. According to @myKBO on Twitter, an account dedicated to giving KBO updates in English, hard slides are not “usually part of KBO’s game. Kang’s KBO instincts might have taken over?”
Hurdle also spoke with former MLB and KBO player C.J. Nitkowski about play in South Korea. Said Hurdle of his findings: “The slides aren’t as aggressive.”
Right-handed pitcher Brandon Cumpton had right shoulder subacromial decompression surgery performed by Dr. James Andrews in Pensacola, Fla., on Thursday.
Estimated time of return to competition from his UCL reconstruction and right shoulder surgeries is approximately 13-15 months from his most recent surgery.