Kang looking forward to increased role with Harrison out

Rookie third baseman has flourished with regular playing time

Kang looking forward to increased role with Harrison out

PITTSBURGH -- The Pirates were dealt deflating news Monday, when leadoff man Josh Harrison's left thumb injury led him to the disabled list. The good news is they have a capable reserve ready for an expanded role.

With Harrison out for an undetermined period of time, Jung Ho Kang figures to be the Pirates' regular third baseman. The South Korean rookie has adjusted well to the U.S. and the Major Leagues, but occasionally struggled with a part-time role.

"The more games I play, the more confidence I get," Kang said through interpreter H.K. Kim. "Definitely benefit [from regular playing time]."

The numbers back up Kang's statement. His best stretch came from May 3 to June 5, when he started 23 of the 25 games he played, while batting .283/.365/.443 in 104 plate appearances.

Kang continued that trend in Tuesday's 3-2 win over the Padres with a game-tying RBI triple in the fifth inning and a backhanded play to rob Matt Kemp of a hit in the first inning.

Kang's backhanded stop

From June 6 to July 4, Kang started 16 of his 25 games, and batted just .227/.310/.280 with 19 strikeouts in 84 plate appearances.

As a starter, Kang has hit .272 with a .727 OPS. Coming off the bench, he's batted .136 with a .422 OPS. It's not surprising, as Kang was a star in the Korea Baseball Organization, the kind of player used to knowing where he'll be in the lineup every day.

While the Pirates will miss Harrison's bat atop the lineup, and his defensive versatility, Kang has proven to be a better third baseman than most people expected.

Kang said, in English, that he's had "no problem" getting comfortable at third base.

"It doesn't matter who's injured or not," Kang said. "My focus is to help the team win and to get ready every day."

Around the horn

• As expected, left fielder Starling Marte was out of the lineup again Tuesday with what the Pirates are calling "left side discomfort." Marte said Monday that he would probably need a few days to rest before testing out his sore muscles.

• Reliever Rob Scahill, on the 15-day disabled list since June 26, is making progress in his recovery from right forearm tightness. The right-hander hopes to begin playing catch this weekend. The next step after that would be throwing bullpen sessions off the mound.

• Outfielder/first baseman Corey Hart (left shoulder impingement) is "right in the middle of his" rehabilitation program, manager Clint Hurdle said. Hart has played four Minor League rehab games for Triple-A Indianapolis and was slated to play Tuesday night, his first time playing on back-to-back days.

• Right-hander Radhames Liz, designated for assignment on May 25, has impressed as a starter for Indianapolis. The 31-year-old is 2-0 with a 0.60 ERA in three starts, compiling 21 strikeouts to just three walks while allowing only seven hits over 15 innings.

Adam Berry is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @adamdberry. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.