Mending Cole, Kang play in Minors game

Righty tosses three innings; infielder faces live pitching for first time

Mending Cole, Kang play in Minors game

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- While the Pirates faced the Phillies at Bright House Field, two of their most important players were working their way back to full strength on the back fields of the club's Pirate City complex.

Gerrit Cole threw three innings against the Yankees' Triple-A team, and Jung Ho Kang faced live pitching for the first time since undergoing knee surgery in September.

Pitching in a game for the second time this spring, Cole allowed one run on two hits and a walk and struck out three batters. He threw 29 of his 50 pitches for strikes and told reporters afterward that he felt good and was particularly pleased with his breaking balls.

Cole, who was set back at the start of Spring Training by right rib inflammation, believes he is still on track to make his first regular-season start during Opening Week.

The Pirates chose to start left-hander Francisco Liriano on Opening Day, because Cole won't be stretched out to throw six innings in time to line up for the April 3 opener against the Cardinals at PNC Park.

In the same game, Kang faced Yankees pitchers but did not test out his surgically repaired left knee by running the bases. Kang, still expected to rejoin the Pirates in mid-to-late April, also took part in some modified baserunning drills following the game Friday afternoon.

Manager Clint Hurdle was pleased to hear that Kang was back on the field, even if he's not yet at full speed.

"It's the next step for progression for him, so yeah, that's exciting," Hurdle said.

Florimon's two-run shot

Around the horn
• Infielder Pedro Florimon, competing for a spot on the Opening Day roster, hit a two-run homer off former Pirates starter Charlie Morton in the second inning of Friday's 15-12 loss to the Phillies, increasing his team-leading RBI total to 10.

• Non-roster outfielder Matt Joyce, a candidate for the Bucs' fourth outfield spot, went 2-for-3 with a double and a home run, both to left-center field.

• Outfielder Antoan Richardson, a non-roster invitee in camp on a Minor League deal, played his first Grapefruit League game of the spring and went 1-for-2 with a two-run triple.

• First baseman Jose Osuna went 2-for-2 with a home run and four RBIs in the final three innings of the Pirates' loss at Bright House Field. Pittsburgh has hit 11 homers this spring, including three from Andrew McCutchen and one each from Minor League callups Michael Suchy and Osuna.

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