Thinking Kang after Walker? Not for a second
Sometimes we read too much into what is said or not said or how it is said, drawing conclusions about what is left unsaid. So it might have been totally coincidental the other day when Clint Hurdle gave an early report of Jung Ho Kang’s spring to-do list.
Or not. But ever since the four-year agreement with Kang, a shortstop on a team that already has a shortstop under its control for two more years, there has been speculation he would be groomed to replace Neil Walker at second base.
Thus my ears perked up when Hurdle said Kang “will get reps at short and third, positions he has played, then maybe second.”
Was that Hurdle’s way of squashing the perception the Bucs are looking for a way to move beyond Walker, who will earn $8 million this season and is likely to jump to eight figures at his next and last go at arbitration?
I hope so. Walker’s future is a polarizing subject. As the Pittsburgh Kid, he’s loved. As a recurring victim of injuries, some freak, he can be scorned.
Above all, though, he is a gamer and a winner whose contributions can’t be assessed on a stat line. Although a club-record 23 homers for all the second basemen in the Bucs’ history isn’t a bad start. For three seasons, two of which have extended into a postseason, I’ve seen these Buccos be a different team with and without Walker.
The numbers might surprise you: In 2012-14, the Pirates went 209-173 when Walker was in the starting lineup — and 52-52 when he wasn’t.
I’m as anxious as anyone to see what Kang can do. I’m just not very anxious to see him do it at second base.