Travis Ishikawa made his debut with the Pittsburgh Pirates last night, flying out to left field as a pinch-hitter for Pirates starting pitcher Francisco Liriano in the sixth inning of a 3-2 win against the Padres at home. The 31-year-old first baseman was claimed off waivers by the Pirates on July 5 after being designated for assignment by the San Francisco Giants on July 3.
This is Ishikawa’s second stint with the Pirates. In 2014 they signed him to a minor league contract, and he made the team after Spring Training. His time with the team was short-lived, though, as he was designated for assignment on April 19 after the Pirates acquired first baseman Ike Davis from the Mets.
Ishikawa joined the Pirates’ 25-man roster after the team placed third baseman Josh Harrison on the 15-day disabled list with a sprained thumb. He will most likely serve as a backup first baseman for Pedro Alvarez, but he can also play some left field. He has spent time in the outfield in the minors over the past few years, and he played eight games in left for the Giants last season before starting in the position in 14 out of their 17 playoff games on their way to a World Series title.
He is excited to rejoin the organization and help as best as he can, telling the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, “Obviously (the Pirates) think enough of me to bring me back in and to make a corresponding move this late in the year. I definitely want to help repay them and help them win some ballgames.”
Harrison’s time on the disabled list will also have an effect on the playing time of infielder Jung Ho Kang. Kang signed with the Pirates for 4 years and $11 million this January. Although he was primarily a shortstop in South Korea’s KBO league, he has spent more time at third base this season, appearing at the position 41 times and at short 22 times. With Harrison out, Kang will be the starting third baseman.
The Pirates will hope that Kang starts hitting more with Harrison out of the lineup. To start the season, Kang was playing well, hitting .291 with a .799 OPS, three home runs and 17 RBIs before June 1, but since that date he has hit .221 with a .597 OPS, one home run and 9 RBIs. Last night, though, he tripled in a run in the fifth inning to tie the game at 2-2, which was his first RBI since June 18, so perhaps it is a sign of good things to come.