BRADENTON, Fla.- Fans shouldn’t hold their breath for Jung Ho Kang to return playing for the Pirates anytime soon, says Pirates general manager. Kang is still waiting for a work visa to return to the United States from South Korea.
In a statement to the MLB News Thursday, Pirates general manager Neal Huntington said it is “unrealistic” to expect the third baseman to play on the Pirates opening day at Fenway Park against the Red Sox.
“We remain optimistic we’re going to get him here hopefully sooner than later,” said Huntington. “Now the challenge is, if we don’t, if it takes some time. We’ve built this club and feel good about the guys we have here.”
However, on Friday, Korean reports allege that Kang’s work visa was denied, further complicating the prospect of Kang playing at all this season.
Pirates president Frank Coonelly issued a statement Friday reiterating that “We continue to work with Kang and his representatives to present materials and information to the appropriate parties in the United States government that we believe establish that Kang should be permitted to travel to the United States under a work visa.”
Last December, Kang was charged with driving under the influence and fleeing the scene of an accident, his third DUI charge since 2009. At his Feb. 22 trial Kang received a suspended eight-month sentence.
Kang has been working out on his own in South Korea, but has not had proper training that other players received during spring training, according to Pirates beat writer Adam Berry.
In Kang’s absence, David Freese will play third base until further notice, said Berry.