Kang's first homer paces Bucs in spring opener

New shortstop, Alvarez go deep in victory over Blue Jays

Kang's first homer paces Bucs in spring opener

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- After Pedro Alvarez got the Pirates off to a fast start with a home run off Blue Jays right-hander Aaron Sanchez, new shortstop Jung Ho Kang connected on his first homer in Pittsburgh's 8-7 win on Tuesday.

Alvarez's shot to left came with a pair of runners on in the first inning. Right fielder Gregory Polanco started the rally with a two-out single, and Starling Marte then reached base on a fielding error by Josh Donaldson.

Pittsburgh's production continued in the second inning as Jaff Decker cleared the bases with a two-run double to right-center field. Sanchez was chased from the game after the at-bat, as he came two outs shy of completing his scheduled two innings of work.

Kang's solo shot

Kang's first home run came with the Pirates holding a 5-0 lead in the third inning. Facing right-hander Marco Estrada, he cleared the fence in right-center field, and then flashed the trademark "Z" sign on the way back to the dugout.

Sanchez allowed five runs -- two earned -- on four hits and one walk over 1 1/3 innings in his spring debut. He is competing against Estrada and left-hander Daniel Norris for the fifth spot in the rotation, but it appears more likely Sanchez will fill a glaring hole at the back end of Toronto's bullpen.

Right-hander Casey Sadler got the start for Pittsburgh and tossed two scoreless innings. His lone blemish came in the top of the second inning when he walked Edwin Encarnacion, who almost hit a home run down the left-field line but had the ball go just foul.

Outfielder Kevin Pillar put the Blue Jays on the scoreboard in the third inning with a two-run homer to left. Pillar is the early favorite to win the starting job in left while Michael Saunders recovers from a left knee injury. Pillar is expected to stick as a fourth outfielder, but he will receive some competition from Ezequiel Carrera and Chris Dickerson.

The Blue Jays rallied in the late innings, highlighted by Josh Thole's two-run single in the eighth. Ryan Beckman induced a groundout from Devon Travis with the bases loaded to end the contest.

Up next for the Pirates: A rematch with the Blue Jays is on the bill for the Pirates' 46th Grapefruit League home opener at McKechnie Field. Listen to an exclusive webcast on Wednesday at 1:05 p.m. ET, as Gerrit Cole starts the first of 15 games in the yard where the Bucs drew 184,479 for 25 games during 2013-14. Pittsburgh is expected to begin the game with its regular lineup, which would mark the spring debuts of All-Stars Andrew McCutchen and Josh Harrison, plus the double-play combination of Jordy Mercer and Neil Walker.

Gregor Chisholm is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, North of the Border, and follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.