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Pirates' Kang Jung-ho hits 2nd home run in minors

All Headlines 10:57 June 05, 2018

SEOUL, June 5 (Yonhap) -- South Korean infielder Kang Jung-ho has hit his second home run in the minor leagues, as he works his way back to the majors with the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Starting at third base and batting third, Kang went 4-for-5 with three RBIs for the Pirates' Advanced Single-A team, Brandenton Marauders, as they beat the Florida Fire Frogs (Atlanta Braves' affiliate) 5-2 at LECOM Park in Bradenton, Florida, on Monday (local time). Kang's two-run homer in the bottom of the sixth inning put his team up 5-1.

Kang launched a grand slam in Saturday's game and is now batting .500 (6-for-12), with a pair of homers and seven RBIs in three minor league games so far.

Kang is looking to rejoin the Pirates this season after being granted a U.S. visa in April. He missed the entire 2017 season and the beginning of the current season following legal trouble in Seoul.

In this Associated Press file photo from Oct. 1, 2016, Kang Jung-ho of the Pittsburgh Pirates watches his three-run homer against the St. Louis Cardinals in the first inning of their major league regular season game at Busch Stadium in St. Louis. (Yonhap)

The third baseman/shortstop was arrested and charged with fleeing the scene of an accident after driving under the influence of alcohol in Seoul in December 2016. It was his third DUI arrest in South Korea, and he received an eight-month jail term, suspended for two years, in March 2017. He lost his appeal two months later.

Though he avoided prison time, Kang was denied a work permit after his arrest and was unable to enter the United States to play for the Pirates. The club placed him on the restricted list in March 2017, and he remains there. Kang hasn't received any pay or earned major league service time since that move.

Kang tried to stay sharp by playing in the Dominican Winter League last year but was released by his club in November following an extended slump.

But the former Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) All-Star finally got his break in April when his work permit was issued. He reported to the Pirates' spring training facility in Bradenton soon afterward, with hopes of rejoining the Pirates this season.

The Pirates are in fourth place in the National League (NL) Central at 30-29, 6.5 games back of the leaders, the Milwaukee Brewers. Rookie Colin Moran has been their primary third baseman, and the 25-year-old has acquitted himself well with a .281 batting average, five homers and 25 RBIs in 52 games.

Kang finished third in the NL Rookie of the Year voting in 2015 after batting .287 with 15 home runs and 58 RBIs in 126 games. The following year, the South Korean had 21 homers and 62 RBIs, along with a .255 batting average in 103 games. He is the first position player to jump from the KBO to the big leagues.

jeeho@yna.co.kr
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