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Ngoepe has chance to be contributor

Minor Leaguer enjoys 3-hit day, could get more time at 3B
Special to MLB.com

SARASOTA, Fla. -- Pittsburgh Pirates third baseman Gift Ngoepe had a big day all around for the Bucs.

The 27-year-old from Pietersburg, South Africa, went 3-for-3 with a walk and three runs scored -- including what would have been the go-ahead score in the top of the ninth inning -- in Pittsburgh's 7-6 loss to the Baltimore Orioles at Ed Smith Stadium in Sarasota on Saturday. Ngoepe also made some spectacular plays in the field.

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SARASOTA, Fla. -- Pittsburgh Pirates third baseman Gift Ngoepe had a big day all around for the Bucs.

The 27-year-old from Pietersburg, South Africa, went 3-for-3 with a walk and three runs scored -- including what would have been the go-ahead score in the top of the ninth inning -- in Pittsburgh's 7-6 loss to the Baltimore Orioles at Ed Smith Stadium in Sarasota on Saturday. Ngoepe also made some spectacular plays in the field.

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"He's fun to watch," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "There's been so much growth and he's got into a position now where the next step is to become a consistent hitter."

Ngoepe batted just .217 last season with eight home runs and 27 RBIs for Pittsburgh's Triple-A affiliate in Indianapolis.

Video: PIT@BAL: Ngoepe leads off 5th with a triple

With incumbent Jung Ho Kang's status in question after he was placed on the team's restricted list on Saturday because of ongoing visa issues, Ngoepe could get an extended look at the hot corner this spring.

"He can throw leather with anybody," Hurdle said. "As I've shared with him, he has a chance to be the guy that can really pick it and get called on in an emergency or when somebody is hurt. Or you can be a guy that can handle the bat and do some things while picking it everywhere and play in the big leagues a long time."

Bucs in the Classic: Andrew McCutchen went 0-for-2 with a strikeout in Team USA's extra-inning 3-2 win over Colombia in the Pool C opener at Marlins Park in Miami on Friday night. USA infielder Josh Harrison didn't play. McCutchen and Team USA took on the Dominican Republic, which features Pirates outfielders Starling Marte and Gregory Polanco, on Saturday.

After sweeping through Pool A in Seoul, Korea, Minor League pitcher Jared Lakind and Team Israel will open up the second round of play against Cuba on Saturday in Tokyo.

Nova throws at Minors camp: Starters Ivan Nova threw against Minor League hitters on Saturday at the team's Pirate City complex in Bradenton. Nova threw 62 pitches in four innings.

"Breaking ball came into play later in the game, but he had a very good changeup and his two-seamer today," Hurdle said. "He had a good outing."

J. Scott Butherus is a contributor to MLB.com and covered the Pirates on Saturday.

Pittsburgh Pirates, Gift Ngoepe