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Kang Jung-ho goes hitless in first Triple-A game in comeback trail to bigs

2018/06/12 11:38

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SEOUL, June 12 (Yonhap) -- Hoping to return to the majors after legal trouble in his native South Korea, infielder Kang Jung-ho has gone hitless in his first Triple-A game.

Kang went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts for the Pittsburgh Pirates' Triple-A affiliate, the Indianapolis Indians, as they were blanked by the Toledo Mud Hens (a Detroit Tigers' affiliate) 4-0 at Victory Field in Indianapolis, Indiana, on Monday (local time).

Batting third and playing third base, Kang grounded out to second base against Toledo starter Jacob Turner in the bottom first.

In the third inning, Kang came up with men at first and second with two outs, but struck out swinging against Turner.

Facing new pitcher Victor Alcantara in the bottom sixth, Kang went down swinging again. Then in the eighth inning, he stood looking at a third strike from Zac Houston.

Kang was promoted from Advanced Single-A Bradenton Marauders to Triple-A on Sunday, after batting .417 (10-for-24) with three home runs, 11 RBIs and five runs scored in seven games for the Marauders. He drew six walks and struck out three times, while splitting time between third base and shortstop.

Kang is looking to rejoin the Pirates this year after missing the entire 2017 season with some legal issues in Seoul. He was only granted a U.S. work permit in April, following a DUI-related conviction in March last year.

The club placed him on the restricted list after Kang received a suspended jail term, and he remains there. Kang hasn't received any pay or earned major league service time since that move.

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) 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)

Kang, who avoided prison time, 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.

He immediately flashed the kind of power that made him a solid, middle-of-the-order option for the Pirates in his first two seasons there, though Triple-A pitching will certainly be more challenging.

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.

Kang recently told U.S. media that he has quit drinking and his interpreter, Mark Kim, is doubling as his driver because he no longer has a driver's license.

jeeho@yna.co.kr

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