BRADENTON, Fla. (93-7 THE FAN) – There aren’t a lot of organizations in baseball that would be happy having to address the news of their starting third baseman missing his reporting date due to a DUI trial in another hemisphere, especially on the first day of Pitchers & Catchers’ workouts.

The guess here is that the Pirates weren’t exactly pleased either with issuing a statement about Jung-Ho Kang’s absence from Spring Training extending through at least next Wednesday, when Kang will appear in a South Korean court for what is his third DUI infraction.

The Kang news led a busy first day of workouts for pitchers and catchers at Pirate City:

  • “He played an extended period for us last year, and played quite well, so we feel very comfortable that David [Freese] could step in and play on a regular basis if need be,” said General Manager Neal Huntington on a contingency plan for Kang’s absence.
  • Manager Clint Hurdle added that Adam Frazier, Jason Rogers, and even Josh Harrison could see some reps at third base as well until Kang is available. He also confirmed that while talking in the off-season with Andrew McCutchen, it was agreed that the right fielder will start the year in his familiar 3rd spot in the batting order. “We like the core group that we have, the lineup.”
  • Hurdle wouldn’t commit to any more than three names in his starting pitching rotation to start camp, complimenting Gerrit Cole’s and Ivan Nova’s experience, and pointing out that Jameson Taillon is in a much better place to start Spring Training this year than last. Chad Kuhl has “every opportunity to maintain and hold down a spot” in the rotation as well, according to Hurdle, but there weren’t any names dropped for the fifth spot in the rotation. Nonetheless, the skipper reinforced his belief in his pitching staff as a whole, saying, “I like the guys that we have in there. I like the options that we have [in the rotation], and I like the way the bullpen construction has taken place over the winter.” As for Tyler Glasnow, Hurdle put the onus on the young starter to improve, emphasizing that “there’s no free pass. He’s gotta go out and compete and show some improvement in some areas here. We’ve got other guys who are in competition as well. He’s well aware of it, but I think some lessons from last year are really going to benefit him going into this year.”
  • Tony Watson’s arbitration hearing is expected to take place by the end of the week, but the closer didn’t want to address it, instead basking in a clubhouse atmosphere that was filled with music (courtesy of DJ Gerrit Cole) and backslaps among old faces and new alike. Watson voluntarily took the responsibility of being the bullpen’s new leader in the absence of Mark Melancon, pointing out that it’s the same thing that was done for him when he entered Pirate City for the first time, and then-established closer Joel Hanrahan showed him the ropes.

Click here for more on my conversations with Watson and set-up man Felipe Rivero about the Pirates’ ‘pen.

  • Speaking of Rivero, his fastball was the most powerful thing seen on Tuesday, prompting Chris Stewart to offer Kevin Stallings a thumb protector for catching the reliever. However, Rivero’s worry about controlling that heater had him worried about losing control up-and-in on lefties last season, as he made the honest admission that he didn’t attack the up-and-in quadrant of the strike zone on them well as he could have. It’s why a re-commitment to attack lefties up-and-in could turn back around his odd-looking reverse splits, which included an 80-point dip in batting average for righties facing him in 2016.
  • Ivan Nova, Gerrit Cole, Jameson Taillon, and Watson were the first group to throw today, as 16 of the organization’s pitchers threw 30 pitches each in the bullpen. Other arms going today included Rivero, Kuhl, Glasnow, Jared Hughes, Antonio Bastardo, Daniel Hudson, Stephen Brault, Wade LeBlanc, A.J. Schugel, Ty Webb, and a laboring Juan Nicasio, who was vocally urged on by pitching coach Ray Searage. Taillon admitted he learned a lot in the off-season, including areas where he needs to improve, but that there won’t be any innings or pitch limits on him in 2017, and they’d like to go 200+ innings if possible.
  • Tomorrow’s pitchers will be mostly minor league arms and highlighted by a few depth starters, starting with Trevor Williams, Josh Lindblom, Dan Runzler, and Pat Light at 11:00am. Nick Kingham, Brandon Cumpton, Casey Sadler, Jason Stoffel, Edgar Santana, Clay Holmes, Dovydas Neverauskas, Jared Lakind, Cody Dickson, Tyler Eppler, and Angel Sanchez will follow.
  • For the second day in a row, the Pirates lost a pitcher to a waiver claim by the Cincinnati Reds. Following Monday’s claim of Lisalverto Bonilla, the Central Division rivals picked up Nefi Ogando. It drops the number of arms at Pirate City to 31.
  • Light, a recent acquisition from the Minnesota Twins, will hopefully have his gear in Bradenton by tomorrow, as his belongings, including his glove, still hadn’t arrived as of Tuesday morning.