The Pittsburgh Pirates Jung Ho Kang still awaits a US Visa to play baseball – but don’t expect him to step right onto an MLB field once he’s here.
Pittsburgh Pirates GM Neal Huntington confirmed to Pittsburgh media today that beleaguered third baseman Jung Ho Kang would most likely not be joining the team on opening day. Kang remains in his native South Korea awaiting a Visa to enter the US after his conviction for a December 2016 drunk driving charge.
Once in the US, Kang will need some Spring Training to get up to MLB speed, Huntington announced at his weekly media scrum.
“He continues to work out and work hard on his own,” Huntington said, as reported by Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review on his TribLIVE blog today. “He’s doing everything he can do. Until we get him here, until we get a real good feel for where he’s at baseball-wise and what the next steps are …”
His workouts in Korea, however, aren’t a replacement for the live-action training he would have in a typical MLB Spring Training.
“He’s going to need a spring training, probably not as long as spring training typically is. He’s going to need some work, some game at-bats. We can set up some sim games, we can set up a lot of at-bats for him in a short period of time. But it’s hard to say until we get him here,” Biertempfel further quoted Huntington.
One Step Closer to a Timeline
This is the first time that anyone with the Pittsburgh Pirates has offered anything close to a timeline related to Kang’s return to full MLB action. Still unknown is whether the 29 year-old Gwangju, South Korea native will face any disciplinary action from Major League Baseball or the Pirates for his drunk driving conviction, his third such offense since 2009.
Last week, Kang appealed the sentence handed down to him by a Seoul Central District Court. He was sentenced to eight months in prison – suspended in lieu of two years’ probation. The Pirates placed him on their restricted list last week.
This likely means that, suspension or not, Kang will spend some time at Pirate City getting some live at-bats and/or in the Pirates’ farm system.
Nothing New for Kang
While many MLBers would find this slow start disruptive to the natural rhythms of baseball season, for Kang, this IS the only kind of start he’s known. He got his first start last season May 6 after spending the entirety of the offseason recovering from a gruesome leg injury caused by a brutal takeout slide by the Cubs’ Chris Coghlan in a September 17, 2015 game. Kang went on to play in 103 games in 2016, hitting 21 home runs, 62 RBIs with an OPS of .867.