The Pirates have settled on Erik Gonzalez and Jung Ho Kang as their starters at shortstop and third base, respectively, to open the 2019 season, general manger Neal Huntington revealed to reporters Monday (Twitter links via Adam Berry of MLB.com).
Gonzalez’s primary competition for the shortstop role had been Kevin Newman and Kevin Kramer, the latter of whom was optioned to Triple-A Indianapolis this morning, per a team press release. Newman, it seems, will still have the opportunity to compete for a utility role with the club, though he could land in Indianapolis as well if the Buccos decide he requires everyday at-bats. Kang, meanwhile, beat out Colin Moran for the role of primary third baseman. Moran will see some time at first base as well, which could afford him a bit more playing time.
The 25-year-old Gonzalez came to the Pirates in the offseason trade that sent Jordan Luplow and Max Moroff to the Indians. Gonzalez had to make the club one way or another, given that he’s out of minor league options, though it wasn’t set in stone that he’d break camp as the regular shortstop. The organization’s confidence in his glove, it seems, ultimately helped to sway the decision, as neither Gonzalez (.233/.303/.367 in 33 PAs) nor Newman (.276/.290/.448 in 30 PAs) has had a particularly impactful spring at the plate.