UPDATE: The Pirates announced that Kang had surgery tonight for a displaced lateral tibial plateau fracture and also required a lateral meniscal repair. The estimated recovery time is 6-8 months, so he could miss the early part of the 2016 season.
7:18 p.m. ET: When Pirates infielder Jung Ho Kang was injured on a takeout slide from Chris Coghlan in today’s game against the Cubs, it was easy to think the worst. Unfortunately for the Pirates, the worst-case scenario has been confirmed.
Dejan Kovacevic of DKPittsburghSports.com reports (via Bob Nightengale of USA Today) that Kang will miss the remainder of the season due to a fractured tibial plateau and a torn MCL in his left knee. The injury will require surgery.
The injury is obviously a brutal blow for the Pirates. Kang has had an excellent first season stateside, batting .287/.355/.461 with 15 home runs and 58 RBI over 126 games. He has also held his own defensively between shortstop and third base. Jordy Mercer will function as Pittsburgh’s regular shortstop the rest of the way.
As for the takeout slide from Coghlan, Kang issued the following statement through his agent:
After 18 years, 12 winning seasons, seven postseason runs and three World Championships, Dave Righetti is no longer a pitching coach for the Giants. He was removed from his post on Saturday, when the team announced a few reassignments as they shake up their coaching staff. Heading into the 2018 season, Righetti will serve as special assistant to general manager Bobby Evans, former bullpen coach Mark Gardner will step into a similar special assistant role to “assist in pitching evaluations,” and former assistant hitting coach Steve Decker will take a special assistant role in baseball operations.
According to MLB.com’s Chris Haft, Righetti was the longest-tenured pitching coach in the big leagues. He helped shape the careers of notable Giants’ aces like Madison Bumgarner, Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain — all Cy Young contenders (and, in Lincecum’s case, a two-time winner) at various points in their careers. He was there to assist Ryan Vogelsong during his stunning mid-career comeback in San Francisco. He helped newcomers like Chris Stratton and Ty Blach flourish even as the team stumbled to the bottom of the division. He was there to take the credit when a sterling rotation clinched the Giants’ 56-year, drought-snapping championship title in 2010 — and, when things went so horribly south in 2017, he took the blame as well.
Hardly anything went right for the Giants’ pitching staff in 2017. Madison Bumgarner was shelved after sustaining a serious shoulder injury in a dirt bike accident, Johnny Cueto couldn’t shake a cluster of blisters on his right hand and Mark Melancon found it difficult to justify a $62 million paycheck after pitching through an arm injury to four blown losses/saves and a 4.50 ERA. It would be a lot for any pitching coach to stay on top of, and given the team’s rapid descent from 2016 postseason contenders to last-place finishers in 2017, it’s not surprising that Evans felt the need to switch things up.
Successors have yet to be named for Righetti, Gardner or Decker, though Murray hears that the Giants could have interest in former major league pitching coach Jim Hickey. NBC Bay Area’s Alex Pavlovic adds that Evans is searching for someone to “put a new voice” on the pitching staff and will likely target someone who, like Righetti, brings considerable experience to the role.