Huntington: Kang to be eased back into action

Infielder progressing in rehab from surgically repaired left leg

Huntington: Kang to be eased back into action

PITTSBURGH -- Over the last week, Jung Ho Kang's Minor League rehab assignment has fallen into a familiar pattern. Two days on, one half-day off. Two more starts, another late-game opportunity the next day.

That schedule will follow Kang to Pittsburgh whenever he rejoins the Pirates. On his weekly radio show with Pirates broadcaster Greg Brown, general manager Neal Huntington said the Bucs will ease Kang back into action after he comes off the disabled list.

"How do we work Jung Ho back into this?" Huntington said on KDKA-FM. "It's going to take time. That's what it's going to take. It's not any more work, different rehab techniques -- sometimes it just takes time."

In this case, that means not asking Kang to play every day. He could start two out of every three games, as Huntington suggested, and still be available to pinch-hit or serve as a defensive replacement every third day.

As Kang's surgically repaired left leg continues to heal, perhaps he will be able to play three games in a row or three out of four, gradually increasing his workload until he returns to the form he showed as a rookie last season.

Until then, third baseman David Freese -- batting .293/.387/.402 and playing a solid third base -- will continue to play an important role for the Pirates. Signed late in Spring Training to a one-year, $3 million deal, Freese won't be lacking for playing time when Kang returns.

"That was a part of the thought process as we signed David Freese," Huntington said.

Kang's return may not be far off, either. He entered Sunday having taken 32 at-bats over 10 games for Triple-A Indianapolis. As manager Clint Hurdle said Saturday, this is essentially Spring Training for Kang, and the Pirates like their hitters to take 45-60 at-bats each spring.

Kang is 4-for-32 with a home run, four walks and eight strikeouts so far.

"We're seeing some really positive signs defensively and on the bases," Huntington said. "He's working to refine his timing, his swing and his confidence. ... We feel we're close, but we want to see him get a handful more games under his belt before he comes here."

Around the horn

Starling Marte was hit by a pitch twice Saturday, but remained in the game. He leads the league with five HBPs this season. Since the start of the 2013 season, Marte has been plunked a Major League-leading 65 times.

• The Pirates scored 128 runs in April, falling three runs short of the club record of 131 runs in April 1996.

Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for since 2015. Follow him on Twitter at @adamdberry. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.