Jung Ho Kang will begin playing in games with the Pirates minor league team at High-A Bradenton tomorrow.
Kang was granted a work visa to return to the United States a month ago and since then has been working out at the Pirates’ spring training complex in Florida. Assuming no hiccups in his minor league stint, he’d likely join the major league club some time in June.
Kang, 31, missed the entire 2017 season following his third DUI arrest in South Korea in December 2016, after which he was not permitted entrance to the United States. With permission granted, the Pirates decided he was worth giving another chance and do not plan to discipline him any more than the time and salary he missed out on.
In Kang’s last big league season he hit .255/.354/.513 with 21 homers in only 103 games as the Pirates’ third baseman. Kang is owed a pro-rated $3 million this year once he is activated. The Pirates have a $5.5 million team option on him for 2019, so the rest of his season should be seen as an audition. If the time off has caused his skills to degrade, the club will likely cut bait on him pretty quickly, owing him whatever is left for this year and a $250,000 buyout on the option.