Kang progressing at Pirates' mini-camp

Jaso, Bell, Knudson also working out

January 11th, 2016

BRADENTON, Fla. -- Jung Ho Kang has spent the past month working out at Pirate City. Throughout the process, club officials have repeated that Kang is checking all the boxes and hitting all the necessary milestones in his rehabilitation. But one question hangs over his recovery: Will he be ready for Opening Day?

On the first day of the Pirates' mini-camp at their Spring Training home, Kang provided an answer. Well, sort of.

"Maybe," he said in English, smiling.

Kang was operating on a different schedule than his teammates in attendance for the workouts. The 28-year-old infielder from South Korea, whose production and popularity soared as a rookie with the Pirates last year, is working his way back after undergoing surgery in September to repair a tibial plateau fracture with a lateral meniscal repair.

As he walked through the Pirate City clubhouse on Monday, Kang said he has been jogging and throwing during his offseason workouts. His weight-lifting sessions have been focused on his upper body only, indicating that he still has plenty of recovery time left ahead of him.

Still, the sight of Kang on a baseball field -- even just playing catch, as he did Monday while chatting with manager Clint Hurdle -- must be considered a welcome one for the Pirates.

Kang sustained season-ending injuries on Sept. 17, when Cubs infielder Chris Coghlan slid into his left leg while trying to break up a double play, upending him and sending him into the infield dirt. Aside from a few pictures and videos posted on Instagram, Kang's recovery has gone quietly but, more importantly, smoothly.

If Kang isn't ready for Opening Day, the Pirates will likely turn to either Sean Rodriguez or Alen Hanson. Josh Harrison, expected to take over at second base for Neil Walker, will either play second or temporarily move to third until Kang is healthy.

Mini-camp notes

• One of the biggest stories out of last year's voluntary workouts centered around a player who wasn't at Pirate City: Pedro Alvarez, who at the time was making the transition from third to first base. This year, the Pirates have two players sharpening their skills at first -- John Jaso and prospect Josh Bell -- and both were present Monday, working at first during infield drills.

Jaso is making the move to first base after spending most of his career as a catcher and designated hitter. Bell, a converted outfielder, still has room to improve defensively after his first full season as a first baseman.

• Among the pitchers working out Monday was right-hander Guido Knudson, who was released last week to make room for the signing of reliever Trey Haley. Knudson signed a Minor League deal with the Pirates and will report to Major League Spring Training. The Pirates initially acquired Knudson by claiming him off waivers from the Tigers in November.