Kang Jung-ho to rejoin Pirates after missing 2 years

September 28, 2018

SEOUL, Sept. 28 (Yonhap) — South Korean infielder Kang Jung-ho will rejoin the Pittsburgh Pirates on the weekend after missing nearly two years with legal problems and injury.

The Pirates announced on Thursday (local time) that Kang, 31, will be active for their final series of the regular season against the Cincinnati Reds over the weekend.

Kang, a former All-Star shortstop in the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO), played mostly at third base for the Pirates in 2015 and 2016. In December 2016, Kang was arrested and charged with fleeing the scene of an accident after driving under the influence of alcohol in Seoul, and ensuing legal problems kept him out of the entire 2017 season.

In this Associated Press file photo from Sept. 16, 2016, Kang Jung-ho of the Pittsburgh Pirates misses a double off the bat of Cincinnati Reds' Adam Duvall in the first inning of a major league regular season game at Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati. (Yonhap)

In this Associated Press file photo from Sept. 16, 2016, Kang Jung-ho of the Pittsburgh Pirates misses a double off the bat of Cincinnati Reds’ Adam Duvall in the first inning of a major league regular season game at Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati. (Yonhap)

Kang received an eight-month jail term, suspended for two years, in March 2017. Though he avoided prison time, Kang was denied a U.S. work permit after his arrest and was unable to enter the United States to play for the Pirates. He got his visa in April this year.

He joined the Pirates’ Advanced A affiliate, the Bradenton Marauders, in early June, and later earned a promotion to the Triple-A Indianapolis Indians.

After nine games with the Indians, Kang was placed on the disabled list on June 27 with a left wrist sprain. Kang went under the knife for cartilage debridement in his left wrist on Aug. 3, and his estimated recovery time was four to six weeks. He began taking swings two weeks ago.

His last major league game came on Oct. 2, 2016, against the St. Louis Cardinals.

Kang finished third in the National League Rookie of the Year voting in 2015 after batting .287 with 15 home runs and 58 RBIs in 126 games. The following year, he had 21 homers and 62 RBIs, with a .255 batting average in 103 games.

Kang signed a four-year, US$11 million deal before the 2015 season, with a $5.5 million team option, or a $250,000 buyout, for 2019.

This photo captured from the Pittsburgh Pirates' official Twitter page on Sept. 28, 2018, shows the club's announcement of the return of South Korean infielder Kang Jung-ho. The 31-year-old last played in the majors in October 2016, as he went through legal trouble in Seoul. (Yonhap)

This photo captured from the Pittsburgh Pirates’ official Twitter page on Sept. 28, 2018, shows the club’s announcement of the return of South Korean infielder Kang Jung-ho. The 31-year-old last played in the majors in October 2016, as he went through legal trouble in Seoul. (Yonhap)

He is the first South Korean position player to jump from the KBO to the big leagues.

If the Pirates don’t pick up their option, Kang will be a free agent. If Kang decides to return to the KBO, he is only eligible to rejoin his former club, Nexen Heroes, who reserve the rights to Kang because the player moved to the Pirates via posting rather than free agency.

When he returns, Kang will wear No. 16, his old number with the Heroes, instead of No. 27 that he donned for the Pirates in 2015 and 2016. Infielder Kevin Newman currently wears No. 27 for the Buccos.

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