Pirates third baseman Jung-Ho Kang may not be able to play for the team at all this season after being denied a visa to enter the U.S., according to media reports.
Naver Sports of South Korea reports that Kang, who has missed all of spring training, was not given a visa after the U.S. embassy rejected his application. And in a separate report, The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette has said that Kang’s DUI arrest in December and his conviction of the crime in March, for which he received a suspended eight-month jail sentence, may have played a part in the matter.
If he isn’t granted a visa, the Pirates may have to play the entire season without Kang, who is in his third season donning the black and yellow. He hit .287/.355/.461 while smacking 15 home runs and 58 RBI in 126 games in 2015 en route to finishing third in the Rookie of the Year voting. Last season, he batted .255/.354/.513 but blasted 21 homers and knocked in 62 runs in only 103 games.
The Pirates were prepared to be without Kang this spring because he was going through this process of obtaining a visa. But, now they will need to lean on 2011 World Series MVP David Freese or newly acquired infielder Phil Gossellin, who Pittsburgh brought in as insurance to Kang when they found out he was going to miss time during the spring. The Pirates could also use Josh Harrison at third if former top prospect Alen Hanson shows some development.
Unlike players making their way back from injury, Kang is on the restricted list, which means that he does not count toward the Pirates’ 25-man and 40-man rosters.