Jung-Ho Kang Granted Work Visa to Rejoin Pirates

Rob Goldberg@TheRobGoldbergFeatured ColumnistApril 26, 2018

PITTSBURGH, PA - SEPTEMBER 27:  Jung Ho Kang #27 of the Pittsburgh Pirates in action during the game against the Chicago Cubs on September 27, 2016 at PNC Park in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images) *** Local Caption ***
Joe Sargent/Getty Images

Jung-Ho Kang is set to rejoin the Pittsburgh Pirates after being granted a work visa to enter the United States, team president Frank Coonelly told Rob Biertempfel of The Athletic.

"After a lengthy process, we are pleased that Jung Ho has been allowed to re-enter to the United States," team president Frank Coonelly said. "We are encouraged by the steps that Jung Ho has taken to date and are hopeful that having the game he loves taken away from him for more than a year has driven home the reality that he must make better life decisions as we move forward together."

The 31-year-old was convicted of a third drunk driving offense in South Korea in 2017, and he has not been allowed to return to his team since. He last appeared for the Pirates during the 2016 season.

The third baseman, who is under contract through the end of this season with a team option for 2019, received a suspended eight-month prison sentence but the Pirates were unable to obtain the necessary visa to get him back into the United States.

"That's been an unfortunate reality from the outset that he may never get a visa again," general manager Neal Huntington said last summer, per Adam Berry of MLB.com. "We worked the process, worked the process again and have not gotten a different result. We'll attack it in different ways again the next time through and hope there is a different outcome. We do need to begin to prepare as if he's not coming back."

However, the latest approach was apparently successful and he now has the opportunity to return to the team and potentially provide depth on the roster once he is ready to contribute.

Kang joined Pittsburgh in 2015 and quickly made a positive impact with a .287 batting average and 15 home runs, finishing third in the Rookie of the Year voting. He followed it up with 21 home runs in 2016 despite playing only 103 games.

Colin Moran has seemingly taken control of the third base role with the Pirates this season with Sean Rodriguez providing depth, but you can never have enough hitting at this level.

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