Hanson Will Push For Big League Gig

PITTSBURGH—The trade of Neil Walker to the Mets for lefthander Jon Niese was not made with the idea of opening the starting second base job for prospect Alen Hanson.

Most likely, the 23-year-old infielder will begin the 2016 season back at Triple-A Indianapolis. However, that doesn’t change his goal heading to spring training.

“I’ve got a chance to make the team and I feel ready to go and play,” Hanson said.

The Pirates expect third baseman Josh Harrison to move to second base, while Jung Ho Kang is penciled in as the Opening Day third baseman after finishing third in 2015 National League Rookie of the Year voting.

Though Kang’s recovery from torn knee ligaments and a broken leg suffered last September in a second-base collision is going well, he might not be ready by April 2.

If Harrison is needed at third, the Pirates would prefer an alternative to the switch-hitting Hanson at second.

“Long-term, we’ve still got some work to do with Alen,” general manager Neal Huntington said, “but we love the dynamic offensive threat that he can be.”

Hanson hit .263/.313/.387 in 529 plate appearances at Indianapolis in 2015, with six home runs and 35 stolen bases.

He played almost exclusively at second base after being converted from shortstop late in the 2014 season at Double-A Altoona.

Hanson also saw his first career action at third base and began taking flyballs in the outfield during pregame drills.

During a January minicamp at the Pirates’ training facility in Bradenton, Fla., he took groundballs at shortstop.

While it seems the Pirates are grooming Hanson to be a utility player, he is 23 and they haven’t ruled him out as an eventual starter.

“We’ll still bounce him around, because it’s much easier to make a club when you can play more than one position,” Huntington said.


• The Pirates signed hard-throwing righthanded reliever Trey Haley to a major league contract. The 25-year-old minor league free agent has no big league experience. The 2008 second-round pick of the Indians went 4-4, 2.45 in 43 games and 55 innings at Triple-A Columbus and Double-A Akron last season.

• Outfielder Jose Osuna won the rookie of the year award in the Venezuelan League after hitting .331/.395/.453 in 159 plate appearances with Margarita. The 23-year-old finished last season at Altoona.

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