Kovacevic: Not much point left in starting Kang


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Jung Ho Kang is struck in the head by a grounder that hopped up off third base Friday night at PNC Park. - MATT SUNDAY / DKPS

Jung Ho Kang isn't the worst third baseman in all of Major League Baseball. He's got Zack Cozart to thank for that.

Remember Cozart?

Used to play for the Reds?

OK, well, he's currently carrying a butterknife slash of .109/.157/.128 in Anaheim. He'd be more productive at the plate if he'd exchange the bat for a shovel and dug himself a ditch in the batter's box. And the dude's now 33 years old and plays damned near every day for some ridiculous reason.

Well, what's the justification for Jung Ho?

Kang's 32, he's been almost as bad at .152./.222/.360, and his 0-for-4 on this night left him hitless in his past 12 at-bats. He's got the four home runs, sure, but those account for a quarter of his 12 hits and, coupled with his 28 strikeouts, he's the awful epitome of an all-or-nothing hitter. Mostly nothing.

To boot ...

Oh, you bet that pun was intended.

On the first of those, Kang opened Oakland's second inning by forfeiting the free 90 feet. On the second of those, five batters later, he did pretty much the same. The Athletics would proceed to pile up five runs that inning and, as all of the two or three dozen witnesses hung around to watch, a 14-1 flogging of their Pirates on this soggy Friday night at PNC Park.

To be fair, Kang's hardly some flawed defender. To be fairer, on that second one, Joe Musgrove had no business throwing to third with Oakland having had only the runner at second base.

OK, as he'd clarify, he heard infielders shouting, "Three!" for third base before ultimately hearing Francisco Cervelli shouting, "One!" for first base, so there was some confusion. But he's got to keep a clearer head there and, more important, nothing prevents Kang from executing a professional throw across the diamond.

I asked Clint Hurdle, offering Kang some benefit of the doubt and fully expecting the same from the manager, if Kang maybe hadn't set his feet properly.

"Well, he's thrown balls away this year more than we've seen in the past," came Hurdle's surprisingly reply. "I don't know. It looked like the feet were trying to get set. Either way, one throw was way off line, and one was short. So ... he's been out there every day with everyone else doing the work. He just threw the ball away tonight."

I'd hoped to ask Kang, too. But as I approached his stall, he motioned to three nearby Korean reporters to follow him out of the locker room. No idea where he went from there, but neither he nor those reporters returned.

Whatever. That's enough. Or it should be.

Colin Moran's no star, and he's certainly no up-and-comer. But he's six years younger at 26, he's one of the four pieces from the likely unsalvageable Gerrit Cole trade, and he's batting a presentable .250/.328/.400 with three home runs of his own. That's not great, though, as he told me after this game, "I feel like my approach is getting to where I want it to be, where it was most of April. It's just a matter of finding some consistency."

For that matter, Ke'Bryan Hayes is 22 and he's coming off a superlative spring that's probably pushed him up to being the organization's No. 1 prospect, and he's not doing badly in his first month of Class AAA ball in Indianapolis at .263/.348/.404. He won't be up soon -- nor should he be -- but he's on pace for a September promotion.

So what's the point of Kang?

To give him a second chance?

Hey, he's started 21 of the first 29 games. If anyone's responsible for his blowing this opportunity or any other, it's him. He's plenty lucky the Pirates looked past his DUI offenses in South Korea, and he's even luckier they pursued every diplomatic avenue available to get him back into the United States. From this perspective, that's well more than what he was owed.

At this point, all concerned owe it to the overall process to see more of Moran, to let him seek out that "consistency" he covets. That could be primarily at third. It could be wherever, as he's also bounced around a bit of late. If he's going to be a viable bench player in the bigs -- and maybe that really is his ceiling -- he and the Pirates would benefit far more from seeing him fail than the other guy.

Look, this isn't exactly taking shape as the Summer of the Sixth World Series, right?

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