By Jason Shetler
MLB.com Pirates beat reporter Adam Berry has reported that Jung-Ho Kang is ready to begin a minor league assignment, as he looks to build himself up for a potential return to the Pirates. He will start out with High A Bradenton on Friday, this according to Berry.
Kang made quite a first impression with the Pirates in 2015, posting an .816 OPS and a 4.0 WAR, while finishing third in the NL Rookie of the Year voting. Despite missing the first month of 2016 recovering from a torn meniscus and fractured tibia, he put up an OPS of .867.
In December of 2016, multiple reports had surfaced that Kang was arrested for DUI in his native South Korea. It was later revealed that he had two drunk driving incidents prior to that. MLB placed Kang on the restricted list, causing him to miss the entire 2017 season.
This past offseason, Kang took part in the Dominican Winter League. During his time there, he hit just .143 and was released by Aguilas Cibaenas. The struggles weren’t much of a surprise, given that he hadn’t seen live game pitching in over a year.
It was announced in April that Kang was granted a working visa to return to the States. Since rejoining the organization, he’s been getting himself back into baseball shape at Pirate City. Should Kang make his return to the big league roster, the Pirates would pay him the pro-rated portion of his $3 million salary for this year. He will have a club option for next season worth $5.5 million, but assuming he rejoins the Pirates, he’ll have to really perform well in order for the option to be exercised.