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Pirates' Kang Jung-ho launches 3rd homer in minors

All Headlines 10:40 June 07, 2018

SEOUL, June 7 (Yonhap) -- On a comeback trail from legal trouble, Pittsburgh Pirates' South Korean infielder Kang Jung-ho is tearing up minor league pitching.

Batting third as designated hitter, Kang launched a solo shot for the Pirates' Advanced Single-A team, Brandenton Marauders, in a 3-2 loss to the Florida Fire Frogs (Atlanta Braves' affiliate) at LECOM Park in Bradenton, Florida, on Wednesday (local time).

The homer was Kang's only hit of the game in four at-bats. He has three homers in five Single-A games so far, along with a .412 batting average (7-for-17) and eight RBIs.

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 problems 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.

Kang will likely make another stop in the minors with Triple-A Indianapolis before returning to the bigs.

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, with a .255 batting average in 103 games. He is the first position player to jump from the KBO to the big leagues.

This photo captured from the Facebook page of the Brandenton Marauders minor league baseball club shows South Korean infielder Kang Jung-ho in action against the Florida Fire Frogs at LECOM Park in Bradenton, Florida, on June 4, 2018. (Yonhap)

jeeho@yna.co.kr
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