Kang past 'rehab script,' to play consistently

Pirates third baseman had been getting regular days off after returning from knee surgery

Kang past 'rehab script,' to play consistently

PITTSBURGH -- Before Jung Ho Kang made his season debut on May 6, the Pirates made it clear they intended to be careful with him. They laid out a two-on, one-off plan that would help keep Kang fresh as he worked his way back from left knee surgery last September.

A week later, Kang started three days in a row, playing all three games at Wrigley Field last weekend and delivering a home run and an RBI double in the Pirates' much-needed 2-1 win Sunday over the Cubs.

Has the plan for Kang changed?

"There was a rehab script initially. Now, we're past that point," head athletic trainer Todd Tomczyk said. "We're monitoring him like we do every other player based on the demands that he put himself through the previous night.

"It's a group decision. We sit with Jung Ho. We sit with [manager Clint Hurdle]. Ultimately, Clint writes the lineup. Jung Ho's input is important, but at the end of the day, it's Clint's decision. Jung Ho is a very important part of that process."

After a day off Monday, Kang started Tuesday against the Braves and found himself back in the starting lineup, batting cleanup, Wednesday night at PNC Park. He went 1-for-5 with a homer during the Pirates' 3-1 loss and also turned a double play at second.

Around the horn
• Reliever Arquimedes Caminero's struggles continued Tuesday night, when he allowed a home run to Mallex Smith, the only batter he faced. Caminero entered Wednesday with a 5.52 ERA and a 2.05 WHIP. Opponents are batting .311 off the flame-throwing right-hander, who emerged last year as a viable option out of the Bucs' bullpen.

What's gone wrong this season?

"Location," Hurdle said. "Everything's ending up somehow hot in the middle and elevated. [Falling] behind in counts has complicated things as well. It's just overall command.

"We all know the difference he was able to make out there for us last year. It's not an arm that based on six weeks of inconsistencies that you shut your eyes on."

• A trio of injured top prospects are still in the early stages of recovery. Catcher Elias Diaz (right elbow surgery) is working on his range of motion and strength exercises. Left-hander Steven Brault (hamstring) is rehabbing with Triple-A Indianapolis. Righty Trevor Williams (shoulder) is strengthening his arm before returning to the Triple-A rotation.

• The Pirates will play three straight Sunday night games in June after a pair of game-time changes announced Wednesday. The Pirates' June 19 game against the Cubs at Wrigley Field was moved to 8:08 p.m. ET. The Bucs play the following day at home against the Giants.

Their 1:35 p.m. ET game against the Dodgers on June 26 has been moved to 8:08 p.m. for ESPN's Sunday Night Baseball. The two clubs will play a 12:35 p.m. game the following day to wrap up their four-game series. They play the Cardinals at 5:05 p.m. on June 12.

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