Kang makes historic start at shortstop for Pirates
Rookie is first Korean Baseball Organization position player in Majors
MILWAUKEE -- It was a night Jung Ho Kang will forever remember. It was also a night Kang would like to forget.
In his first Major League start, a historical event sure to raise big headlines in his native South Korea, Kang was thrown at the mercy of young Milwaukee right-hander Jimmy Nelson, who overwhelmed all of the Pirates.
In the third inning, Kang swung through Nelson's 93-mph fastball. In the sixth, after ripping a 1-1 fastball foul down the right field line, Kang fanned on another 93-mph heater, down at his ankles. His next, and last, time up, he faced lefty Will Smith, and grounded out on his first pitch to short.
The fact Kang struck out both times he faced Nelson certainly could not be taken as a sign of weakness, inasmuch as the righty rang up seven other Ks in his seven innings.
"Nelson was pitching really good today," Kang said through interpreter H.K. Kim, "and it was hard for us to face him. What's behind is behind, and we gotta get ready for (Sunday), study a new pitcher and move on."
Anticipating the first MLB start by a position Korean Baseball Organization graduate, Kang said he "was not anxious, or anything like that."
That was evident: At 3:30 p.m., two-and-a-half hours before the first pitch, Kang was taking a nap in a back room of the visitors' quarters in Miller Park. Perfectly understandable, considering that time equated to the middle of the night (1:30 a.m.) in his native South Korea.
Kang was up and at 'em when it was time for his historic jog out to his position, shortstop.
"I feel good about it," he said, referring to throwing open a new frontier. "There is a lot more to work on, a lot more to do to show Koreans can play in the Major Leagues."
Afield, Kang was flawless, albeit none of the three grounders he cleanly handled were particularly challenging.
The biggest mental challenge for a slugger who last year belted 42 homers in the middle of Nexen's lineup was batting eighth for the Bucs. Although, characteristically, Kang shrugged that off.
"I feel comfortable wherever they put me," he said.
Comfort was definitely something Kang could expect from his second start -- which very well could come on Sunday, in the finale of the series here. Manager Clint Hurdle likes to spot start pitchers -- but not the extra men on his bench. Hurdle can "bundle" with the best of the cable companies, looking for opportunities to "bundle games for all those guys, get them multiple games."
"I will definitely feel more comfortable tomorrow," Kang said. "The team lost, and I'm looking forward to winning tomorrow."