Pirates Spring Training 2017: Feb. 22 News & Notes

Baseball Goes Inside Due To Rain, Workouts Take Backseat To Ongoing Kang Proceedings

BRADENTON, Fla. (93-7 THE FAN) – The big news on the Pirates’ radar today was the South Korean trial of Jung-ho Kang on DUI charges.

As has been reported by Yonhap News Agency, prosecutors are seeking a $13,000 fine, and despite Kang’s admittance of guilt to the charges, a verdict hearing is not set to take place until March 3. Assuming sentencing takes place at that time, it’s conceivable Kang could be stateside by March 4.

It’s also conceivable sentencing will take place at a separate date and time to be decided on March 3. And that once sentencing is decided and Kang does pay his fine and depart for the United States, he will enter a rehab program. It’s also not out of the realm of possibility that either the Pirates or Major League Baseball will enforce a suspension of some sort. Would that suspension be for a number of days, that could be served concurrently during his presumed rehab? Or would it be a number of games?

In any event, when exactly should Kang be expected to get on a baseball field? And how long will it take him to get game-ready once he does? The questions are all over the board, and they just so happen to revolve around a player the Pirates were expecting to be a huge power presence in the middle of their lineup.

The Pirates do not plan to comment on Kang any further until sentencing takes place.

As for actual baseball, the rain intervened. Again somehow, in the middle of February, Pittsburgh won the weather battle with Bradenton, as a total washout at Pirate City pushed workouts indoors.

  • Head Athletic Trainer Todd Tomczyk provided updates on Josh Bell and Francisco Cervelli, as well as minor league free agent Jason Stoffel. Bell is “slightly ahead of schedule, cleared for on field baseball activities including hitting and fielding,” said Tomczyk, but not cleared to run at full speed as he’s 3 weeks into a project 2-4 week recovery period from offseason knee surgery. No more details would be shared of how Cervelli acquired his right foot discomfort, but the position and the rigors of catching so many bullpens in the first few days of camp seemed to be the direction Tomczyk was alluding toward when discussing Cervelli. Stoffel, the 28-year old righty reliever who spent the past 18 months as a closer in the Orioles’ system and the prior four years at the AA & AAA levels of the Astros organization, is expected to start on-field throwing in the coming days.
  • Bell looked good in the cage again this morning, as he wrapped up his BP by – surprise, surprise – working on going the other way from the left side.
  • We all know Ray Searage’s reputation precedes itself around baseball at this point, and while there are still some who will watch Jim Benedict’s ongoing rebuild of the Marlins staff in Miami and choose to give him full credit for the rebirths of A.J. Burnett, Francisco Liriano, and Edinson Volquez while he was working in Pittsburgh, watching Uncle Ray work with Clay Holmes today was exemplary of why he’s so good at what he does. It’s not simply the coaching of mechanics. If it were, any pitching coach worth his salt could take a video camera and a tripod and go to work remaking deliveries across the game. It’s Searage’s tact with each individual pitcher that seems to allow him to make the connection necessary to give the honest coaching feedback and assessment his players need. For example, with a firebrand like Gerrit Cole, he remains calm, soothing, and jovial as he tries to calm the hurler down and focus him on what may be working or not working. With a ‘chillaxed’ California dude like Tyler Glasnow, or in this instance, a southern ‘Bama boy with a slow heartbeat like Clay Holmes, he pushes and prods while giving the same feedback he would to another pitcher, but with more energy and force. The man’s a master psychologist. “Truly great coaches have different ways to explain different messages,” said Manager Clint Hurdle when asked about Searage’s adjustments. “Your approach is critical. There’ll be no buy-in until there’s trust. Ray develops trust. He pours in to the relationship aspect of it. Everybody’s got a lock, and he’s got different keys. He makes it look easy, and it’s not.”
  • The pitching coach isn’t exactly torn up about the institution of automatic intentional walks. In the clubhouse this morning he entertained several reporters and reliever Pat Light with a story of his minor league days, and a road trip where he used a little too much pine tar to get a grip in the dry, Rocky Mountain air. After a wild pitch on an intentional walk ended up 15 feet up the screen behind home plate, Searage looked down and saw white leather remnants of the baseball still stuck to his fingers.
  • Light can sympathize. As a reliever with the Twins last year, he did this in the Top of the 9th inning with runners on 2nd & 3rd:
  • Speaking of pitching coaches, the organization today announced former closer Joel Hanrahan will work in Morgantown as an assistant pitching coach this season with the Black Bears, the Bucs’ short-season A-level affiliate that gets handed the majority of the team’s draft picks in June.
  • Hurdle also praised the continued presence of Special Instructors at Spring Training, and what they’re able to pass along in the way of culture. “There’s little satellite conversations that happen throughout the spring with these men and certain players, that I can’t – I can’t give them that.” Just a couple of hours earlier, one of those very conversations had taken place outside the batting cages as a pair of World Series champions, Manny Sanguillen and Rennie Stennett, joked with current left fielder Gregory Polanco.
  • Tony Clark, Executive Director of the Major League Baseball Player’s Association, will meet with players at 7:15 Thursday morning at Pirate City. Commissioner Rob Manfred’s pace-of-play initiatives, including the new intentional walk rule, will undoubtedly be a part of the conversation before workouts begin at 10am. Batting practice starts around 10:40, and the first sliding practice of the season will wrap the morning up before camp is moved to LECOM Park in the afternoon, ahead of Saturday afternoon’s Grapefruit League opener there against the Orioles.

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