Hughes joins Kang on rehab assignment

Hughes joins Kang on rehab assignment

SAN DIEGO -- Pirates reliever Jared Hughes began a rehab assignment with Triple-A Indianapolis on Wednesday, and a familiar face helped him through a scoreless inning.

Hughes, sidelined in Spring Training by a left lat strain, pitched the sixth inning for Indianapolis on Wednesday afternoon. He walked the first batter he faced and hit the second with a pitch. He got a ground ball from the next batter, and a fellow rehabbing Pirates teammate, third baseman Jung Ho Kang, started a double play.

"It felt really good having him back there. He made a great play on the ball," Hughes said. "Jung Ho looks great. His defense looks solid. He made some great plays today. It's really nice having him back there again."

The right-handed reliever, a key piece of the Bucs' bullpen, was pleased with his first appearance since a March 16 Grapefruit League game.

"It felt incredible. I was just itching to get out of Florida," said Hughes, who had been working out at the club's Pirate City training complex. "I'm feeling strong getting back out into action. Had to shake off a few cobwebs, got out of it. Felt really good, though."

Hughes didn't give up a hit in his first rehab outing. He is expected to pitch again Thursday, and pitching on back-to-back days indicates that Hughes is not far from rejoining to the Pirates.

Kang went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts and played a full nine innings in Wednesday's game, the second on his rehab assignment. He went 0-for-3 with a walk and a run while playing seven innings at third base on Monday.

Kang will play on back-to-back days in the "near future," head athletic trainer Todd Tomczyk said, but he won't play for Indianapolis on Thursday.

Left-hander Cory Luebke will begin a Triple-A rehab assignment on Thursday. Luebke strained his right hamstring during the first week of Spring Training workouts and re-aggravated the injury before going on the disabled list on April 14.

"In retrospect, maybe we should have taken it a little bit slower for Cory," Tomczyk said.

Pitching prospect Trevor Williams (right shoulder inflammation) is playing catch on flat ground. Catching prospect Elias Diaz (lateral right elbow discomfort) has resumed playing catch, also on flat ground, in an attempt to get back into playing games.

"We've gotten clearance from the doctors that this is the best path for him right now to help him get back to playing," Tomczyk said.

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.