By any objective measure, Jung Ho Kang struggled during a recent minor league rehab assignment.
Kang, working his way back from surgery to repair leg and knee injuries suffered last September, had six hits in 40 at-bats, a .150 average. He had just one extra-base hit, a home run, while striking out nine times. If rehab assignments were supposed to offer optimism about a player's readiness to return, Kang's did not.
As it turns out, he was ready.
Kang homered twice in his return to the Pirates' lineup, helping the Bucs best the rival Cardinals 4-2. Kang finished 2-for-4 with three RBI.
“It all boils down to how I get used to the pitching style and the speed here,” Kang, through interpreter H.K. Kim, said prior to the game regarding his ability to get up to speed. “I know there’s a difference between Triple-A and big league pitchers. It’s all about seeing pitches and getting used to the rhythm and tempo here.”
It was his season debut after he sustained a torn meniscus in his left knee and a fractured tibia while turning a double play in September. He had surgery shortly after and spent all winter and spring rehabbing. He recently finished a minor league rehab assignment, logging 40 at-bats, before being activated before Friday's game.
Kang had a very impressive rookie season prior to the devastating injury, batting .28/.355/.461 with 15 home runs and 58 RBI in 126 games. Big things are once again expected of him now that he's back.
In the early stages of his return Kang will share time with David Freese at third base, likely only playing two out of every three days. He could also spell Jordy Mercer at shortstop after starting 49 games at the position in 2015.
The regular season is in full swing, so be sure to keep refreshing Rotoworld's constantly-updating player news page for all the latest. And while you're at it, follow @Rotoworld_BB and @nate_grimm if you are on Twitter.
Halos Lose Richards To Tommy John Surgery
Garrett Richards became the latest victim of the Tommy John epidemic Friday.
Richards was diagnosed with a high-grade tear of his ulnar collateral ligament, an injury that will end his season prematurely. Richards will seek a second opinion on the elbow, but all signs point to the surgery at this point.
"I'm disappointed," Richards said, "and you can't help but feel like you're letting your teammates down and kind of abandoning them in the middle of the season. I tried my best to kind of continue on and take the ball every fifth day and show up for my teammates and give us a chance to win. I'm just trying to kind of decompress right now and absorb what's going on, just figure out what the next step is in my recovery to getting back on the field."
The warning signs date back to Sunday, when Richards left his start against the Rangers after 79 pitches. The Angels blamed it on cramping and dehydration, but then he missed his between-starts bullpen session and was scratched from his scheduled start Friday due to what was called fatigue.
Sometimes pitchers say they know the instant a major injury happens. Richards said his injury sort of crept up on him.
"I never threw one pitch that made me think, 'Oh my god, my arm is done,'" Richards said. "It was just kind of something that progressively snuck up on me and kept going. There was never one pitch where I felt anything specific."
Richards owned a 2.34 ERA through six starts prior to the injury. The Angels don't have many great options to replace him, meaning they'll most likely have to look outside the organization -- the club was one of the 20 that had representatives at Tim Lincecum's showcase Friday -- for help.
Lincecum Shows Off For Teams
Speaking of Lincecum, it sure seems like he'll be back and pitching for someone in the near future.
The right-hander threw 41 pitches in his showcase in Scottsdale, Arizona, on Friday, in hopes of proving to just one team that he can once again be a serviceable starter in the big leagues after September hip surgery. And with 50-plus representatives from more than 20 teams in attendance, his odds are good.
They're aided by the fact that he sat 90-91 mph with his fastball and showed a good curveball and changeup during the session. Lincecum said he was "happy" with the showcase and his command of his pitches, saying now that his hip feels better he thinks he has a long major league career still ahead of him.
"To be honest, I feel like I could pitch for a good five or six more years until I can't anymore at this point," he said. "I'm nowhere near that point."
Lincecum said he would be alright with accepting a role as a reliever if it eventually led to a starting opportunity, but with many teams searching for starters, the Angels included, he likely won't have a hard time finding a starting job if he wants it. The 31-year-old made 15 starts last season with the Giants, going 7-4 with a 4.13 ERA, but he made seven relief appearances during a tumultuous 2014 season.
National League Quick Hits: Carlos Martinez left Friday's start against the Pirates with what the team identified as fatigue. He allowed one run on three hits over 3 1/3 innings before being removed, and he'll be re-evaluated Saturday ... Few are hotter than Ben Zobrist right now after Zo mashed two home runs Friday afternoon. He's now homered four times in his last three games ... Brandon Phillips homered in his third straight game Friday. He's now hitting .292/.320/.500 with four home runs and 14 RBI in the middle of the Reds' lineup ... Jason Heyward (wrist) returned to the Cubs' lineup Friday, going 1-for-3 with a double and a run scored. Ben Revere's return to his respective lineup was less successful, as he went 0-for-5 in Friday's loss to the Nationals ... The Braves optioned Adonis Garcia to Triple-A Gwinnett. It was a bit of a surprise for the struggling club, as Garcia has hit a passable .260/.319/.308, but his horrid defense at third likely had something to do with it ... Francisco Liriano continued his dominance over the Cardinals, striking out 10 in Friday's win. The 10 punchouts matched a season high he set on Opening Day against, you guessed it, the Cardinals ... Nick Hundley hit the 15-day disabled list with a strained left oblique. The move could spell more time for Dustin Garneau, who was recalled to take Hundley's roster spot, or Tony Wolters, but it's hard to tell if either is usable for fantasy purposes at this point ... Devin Mesoraco's surgery to repair a torn labrum in his left shoulder is set for Tuesday. The procedure involves a four-month recovery time, making this the second time in two seasons that Mesoraco will undergo season-ending surgery ... John Lackey struck out 11 while limiting the Nationals to two runs over seven innings Friday. The grisly veteran has been worth the money for the Cubs thus far, owning a 4.02 ERA, 1.09 WHIP and 40/10 K/BB ratio through 40 1/3 innings ... Domingo Santana (shoulder) remained out of the Brewers' lineup Friday. He's missed four of the last five games with right lat soreness, but he served as a pinch-hitter Thursday, meaning he's not likely ticketed for a DL stint soon ... Justin Bour (finger) was also out Friday. He hopes to play this weekend as he continues to recover from a dislocated left pinkie finger.
American League Quick Hits: Along with teammate Richards, it was reported by Yahoo's Jeff Passan that Andrew Heaney has damage to his left UCL. Unlike Richards, Heaney will attempt to rehab before going under the knife ... Jacoby Ellsbury was diagnosed with a strained hip muscle after leaving Friday's game. He's day to day ... Astros optioned Evan Gattis to Double-A in hopes that he'll get up to speed as a catcher. With Jason Castro et al struggling, Astros manager A.J. Hinch is hoping Gattis will provide a better offensive option that doesn't hurt them too much post-dish ... Brian Dozier missed Friday's game with right hamstring soreness. He said he could have played if needed, so it's not something likely to keep him out much past Friday night ... Cole Hamels was dominant Friday, striking out nine Tigers over seven scoreless innings in a win. Hamels allowed a lone hit while walking two in the contest ... Carlos Correa is starting to heat up, going 3-for-3 with a home run and two RBI in Friday's win. He's now batting .288/.403/.500 after a late April lull ... Danny Salazar shoved on Friday, striking out nine over 7 2/3 scoreless innings against the Royals. He's now got a 1.91 ERA, 0.90 WHIP and 43/16 K/BB ratio over 37 2/3 innings of work ... Brett Gardner (elbow) returned to the Yankees' lineup, going 1-for-3 with a double, a walk and a stolen base ... The Yankees placed CC Sabathia on the disabled list with a left groin strain. It's unfortunate timing after Sabathia threw seven scoreless against the Orioles his last time out, easily his best showing of the season ... Mike Moustakas (thumb) was a late scratch from Friday's lineup. He returned to game action Wednesday but is obviously still bothered somewhat by the bruised thumb ... Alex Rodriguez (hamstring) could return from the disabled list as early as May 19, when he's first eligible. He's dealing with a "one-plus" grade strain of his right hamstring, Yankees manager Joe Girardi said ... Danny Valencia (hamstring) was activated from the 15-day disabled list Friday. His return to the field will have to wait until early Saturday, though, after the Athletics-Orioles game was rained out Friday.