Bell making strides on defensive side

Kang begins basic baseball activities; Glasnow could return Saturday

Bell making strides on defensive side

PITTSBURGH -- Josh Bell started at first base for the fourth straight game in Wednesday's 5-4 loss to the Astros, reinforcing the Pirates' suggestion that he will play more often than not after being called up from Triple-A Indianapolis on Saturday.

So don't be surprised if Bell keeps starting games down the stretch. And don't be surprised if the slugging prospect doesn't finish many of those games at first base, either.

As they did with Pedro Alvarez last year and John Jaso earlier this season, the Pirates will look to replace Bell -- still a work in progress defensively -- with Sean Rodriguez late in games whenever possible.

Bell is a converted outfielder in his second full season at first base. He's made significant strides, as he showed Tuesday by stretching out to snag a number of throws from around the infield. That skill often takes time to develop, manager Clint Hurdle noted, as first basemen learn more about their infielders' arms.

"He's getting there," Hurdle said after Pittsburgh's 7-1 win. "He'll figure that out. We've got good defenders. That part of it shouldn't be too challenging for him."

Bell exited the game after six innings in favor of Rodriguez. If Rodriguez is unavailable, Jaso also could fill that role. Jaso made the transition to first base this season, but he's done so smoothly enough for the Bucs to trust him there with the game on the line.

"He's come in and finished a couple games at the back end," Hurdle said. "We have confidence in John being used in that fashion, if we need Sean somewhere else."

Trainer's room
Jung Ho Kang (left shoulder subluxation) has begun "minimal" baseball activities, head athletic trainer Todd Tomczyk said, playing catch and fielding grounders hit directly at him. Tomczyk said the Pirates are "encouraged" by Kang's progress, but the third baseman has not yet begun swinging.

Top prospect Tyler Glasnow (right shoulder discomfort) threw a bullpen session in Indianapolis on Wednesday, and he will make his next rehab start with the Triple-A club later this week. If Glasnow remains on schedule, he will pitch Saturday.

• Catcher Chris Stewart (sore left knee) will continue to play nine innings every other day for Double-A Altoona.

"He reports minimal symptoms right now," Tomczyk said. "His biggest symptom is overall fatigue from not playing for so long."

Kingham coming along
Right-hander Nick Kingham, Pittsburgh's No. 11 prospect according to MLBPipeline.com, threw six scoreless innings and struck out seven for Class A Advanced Bradenton on Tuesday.

Nearing the end of his recovery from Tommy John surgery, Kingham has thrown 35 innings over eight appearances in the Gulf Coast League and Florida State League, posting a 2.06 ERA with 26 strikeouts and two walks.

The Pirates likely will shut down Kingham when the Minor League season ends, having built up his arm enough so that he can report to Spring Training next year ready to pitch. The 24-year-old could be an option for the Bucs' rotation at some point next season.

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.