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Kang Jung-ho collects first Triple-A hit in MLB comeback bid

2018/06/14 11:09

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SEOUL, June 14 (Yonhap) -- Seeking a return to the majors following legal trouble in South Korea last year, infielder Kang Jung-ho has picked up his first hit in Triple-A.

Kang went 1-for-4 for the Pittsburgh Pirates' Triple-A affiliate, the Indianapolis Indians, as they defeated the Toledo Mud Hens (a Detroit Tigers' affiliate) 3-2 at Victory Field in Indianapolis, Indiana, on Wednesday (local time).

Kang had gone hitless in eight at-bats over his first two games with the Indians, following a promotion from Advanced Class A on the weekend.

Batting third and playing shortstop, Kang grounded out to second in the first inning against starter Tyler Alexander.

Kang got his first hit with an infield single in the fourth but grounded out to the pitcher in the fifth and hit into a 6-4-3 double play in the eighth.

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 that resulted in a suspended jail term 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 while on the list.

In this file photo from Sept. 19, 2017, Kang Jung-ho, South Korean infielder in the Pittsburgh Pirates organization, speaks to Yonhap News Agency in an interview in Gwangju, 330 kilometers south of Seoul. (Yonhap) In this file photo from Sept. 19, 2017, Kang Jung-ho, South Korean infielder in the Pittsburgh Pirates organization, speaks to Yonhap News Agency in an interview in Gwangju, 330 kilometers south of Seoul. (Yonhap)

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, Florida, 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, batting .417 (10-for-24) with three home runs, 11 RBIs and five runs scored in seven games in Advanced Class A.

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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