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Kang, Gonzalez win starting jobs in Pirates’ infield

March 18, 2019
Toronto Blue Jays' JD Davis (1) slides safely into third base as the ball skips away from Pittsburgh Pirates' Jung Ho Kang during the fourth inning of a spring training baseball game Friday, March 8, 2019, in Bradenton, Fla. Davis advanced on a single by Eric Sogard. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)

BRADENTON, Fla. (AP) — Jung Ho Kang and Erik Gonzalez have won starting jobs in the infield with the Pittsburgh Pirates.

General manager Neal Huntington said Monday that Kang has beaten out Colin Moran at third base and Erik Gonzalez has won the shortstop competition over Kevin Newman.

“It was not an easy decision because all four guys, in their own way, had legitimate claims to be the regular,” Huntington said.

Kang is just 5 for 28 (.185) with 13 strikeouts this spring but all five hits have been solo home runs. Moran was 6 for 28 (.214) with a double and a homer through the weekend.

Moran, however, had committed four errors while Kang had two.

“The power has been real,” manager Clint Hurdle said of Kang. “It’s spring training, but it’s five homers. We don’t have anybody else that’s hit five homers.”

Kang missed the entire 2017 season and the beginning of 2018 because he was unable to secure a work visa to travel from his native South Korea following a third DUI arrest. He then underwent wrist surgery last year before returning to the Pirates for the final three games of the season.

Moran was the Pirates’ primary third baseman last season as a rookie and will get some playing time at first base during the final days of spring training.

Gonzalez has gone 7 for 30 (.233) with a double, a home run, 11 strikeouts and two errors in Grapefruit League play. Newman is 8 for 29 (.276) with two doubles, a homer and no errors.

Acquired from Cleveland in an offseason trade, Gonzalez spent his first three seasons with the Indians as a utility player.

“I have been waiting for this opportunity for a long time and it’s finally here,” Gonzalez said. “I am so happy for my family, friends, the people have supported and always believed I could be a starting shortstop in the big leagues.”

NOTES: INF Kevin Kramer was optioned to Triple-A Indianapolis while LHP Brandon Waddell, RHP Geoff Hartlieb, Cs Christian Kelley and Arden Pabst, 1B Will Craig, 3B Ke’Bryan Hayes and OF Bryan Reynolds were reassigned to minor league camp. . RHP Jordan Lyles pitched a four-inning simulated game and threw 60 pitches. He said he felt fine after leaving his previous start last Tuesday after two innings because of cramping in his right side.

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