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Kang returns from restricted list, stays at Triple-A

Plus updates on Cervelli, Rodriguez, Romero
MLB.com @adamdberry

PITTSBURGH -- Jung Ho Kang is off the restricted list but staying in Triple-A.

The Pirates on Friday reinstated Kang from the restricted list, putting him back on their 40-man roster, and optioned him to Triple-A Indianapolis. Kang has been playing for Indianapolis since Monday, but he is now being paid the prorated portion of his $3 million salary.

PITTSBURGH -- Jung Ho Kang is off the restricted list but staying in Triple-A.

The Pirates on Friday reinstated Kang from the restricted list, putting him back on their 40-man roster, and optioned him to Triple-A Indianapolis. Kang has been playing for Indianapolis since Monday, but he is now being paid the prorated portion of his $3 million salary.

"He's given us a really good effort," general manager Neal Huntington said. "We felt like it was the right time."

The Pirates could have waited longer to activate Kang, as there is no clear-cut requirement to remove him. The guideline was simply that Kang had to be "conditioned" to play, Huntington said, though not necessarily at his accustomed level.

The Pirates obviously don't feel Kang has completely returned to form; if they did, he'd be in the Majors. Instead, they kept him in Triple-A to get more playing time after nearly two years away from Major League competition.

"We'd love nothing more than to see him be Jung Ho Kang again," Huntington said. "Destroy fastballs, do damage against breaking balls, be an athlete that can play defense at both third and short. And we're seeing signs. We're also seeing signs there's some more time needed."

Kang has been on the restricted list since March 10, 2017, after he was unable to acquire a work visa following his arrest for driving under the influence in South Korea in December 2016. Kang reentered the country in late April and began a month-long, Spring Training-type program at the Pirate City complex in Bradenton, Fla. His Minor League assignment began on June 1 with Class A Advanced Bradenton, where he hit .417 with three homers, six walks and three strikeouts in seven games. In his first four Triple-A games, Kang went 1-for-15 with a walk and three strikeouts. He likely will not rejoin the Pirates -- for the first time since Oct. 2, 2016, his last Major League game -- until he proves he can consistently hit higher-level pitching.

Video: PIT@CHC: Broadcast on Kang's promotion to Triple-A

Kang hit .273/.355/.483 with 36 home runs and 120 RBIs in 229 games for the Pirates from 2015-16. He will continue to play third base and shortstop, Huntington said, as he did before a season-ending knee injury in 2015.

"The same way his versatility allowed him to make the club the first time through," Huntington said. "With Jordy [Mercer], [Colin] Moran and [David] Freese, the ability to bounce back and forth, the ability to play both positions, it's another way for him to make the club and help the club."

Around the horn
• The Pirates will carry three catchers, for now, as they continue to evaluate catcher Francisco Cervelli following a foul tip that left him with a bruised jaw. Cervelli returned to the lineup on Wednesday and started Friday's series opener at PNC Park, but the Bucs kept Jacob Stallings as an additional backup on the bench.

Video: PIT@CHC: Trainers check Cervelli after foul off mask

With Stallings still on board, Pittsburgh can more freely use Cervelli or Elias Diaz -- two of the club's best hitters this season -- as a bat off the bench.

"You've got two guys coming off the bench that can swing the bat to help along the way," manager Clint Hurdle said. "I think right now, for the time being, we're best served by carrying an extra catcher."

• Reliever Richard Rodriguez (right shoulder inflammation) will throw a simulated game on Saturday, Hurdle said. Rodriguez is eligible to come off the disabled list on Sunday.

• The Bucs announced four Draft signings on Thursday night: outfielder Daniel Amaral (14th round), catcher Ryan Haug (27th) and infielders Nick Patten (28th) and Justin Harrer (35th). Amaral was assigned to Class A Short Season West Virginia, and the other three will begin their professional careers in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League. Pittsburgh has signed 24 of its 41 Draft picks.

• Left-hander Enny Romero (left shoulder impingement) had his rehab assignment transferred from Bradenton to Double-A Altoona.

• The Pirates on Friday unveiled their Father's Day plans for Sunday at PNC Park. The club has partnered with Allegheny Health Network to host "Catch for Cancer," a fundraising and awareness event for prostate cancer, at PNC Park on Sunday morning. Fundraisers can play catch on the field, receive complimentary tickets to the game and win autographed merchandise. The top three fundraisers will meet Josh Harrison, Cervelli or Jameson Taillon.

The Pirates will also hand out special Pirates caps to all fathers and children age 14 or younger. Kids and their dads are invited to run the bases after the game.

Father's Day across MLB will include the annual Prostate Cancer Foundation "Home Run Challenge," which has given fans the chance to make a one-time monetary donation or pledge for every home run hit by their favorite MLB Clubs during the time period of Friday, June 1st through Father's Day, Sunday, June 17th, all the while tracking where their team stacks up in a "Team vs. Team" competition. Every dollar donated through the Home Run Challenge goes to PCF to fund critical research to defeat prostate cancer. As of June 15th, more than $1.85 million has been pledged via the Home Run Challenge in 2018. Since inception, the Home Run Challenge has raised nearly $50 million for PCF, the world's leading philanthropic organization funding and accelerating prostate cancer research.

Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook and read his blog.

Pittsburgh Pirates, Francisco Cervelli, Jung Ho Kang