Kang obtains visa, rejoins Pirates organization

April 27th, 2018

PITTSBURGH -- Having obtained a work visa to enter the United States, infielder will begin working out on Monday at the Pirate City complex in Bradenton, Fla.

Kang was previously unable to enter the United States following a December 2016 arrest in his native South Korea for driving under the influence of alcohol. The Pirates will put him through a Spring Training-type program in Florida, understanding it could be a while before he's ready to rejoin their Major League roster.

"He's paid a heavy price for the things he's done," general manager Neal Huntington said. "He has a lot of work to do to get back to where he was as a player. More importantly, he has a lot of work to do to continue to grow as a person. He's on the right track there."

In a statement released by the Pirates on Friday, Kang said he was "deeply sorry" and apologized to his family, friends, teammates, the organization, fans, "and anyone else who has been negatively affected by my regretful actions. ... After a long, painful process, I am excited to have a chance to return to the game that I have missed so much. My focus is first on becoming the best person that I can be. Secondly, I look forward to getting to Pirate City and demonstrating that I am committed to doing whatever I can to get back to Pittsburgh and help the Pirates win. I will not disappoint anyone anymore."

Huntington did not specify why Kang's latest application for a work visa was successful after his past attempts were rejected. The Pirates served in a supporting role to Kang's representatives, including attorney Amy Maldonado, consulting attorney Javad Khazaeli and the Octagon agency.

The Pirates will issue no further discipline for Kang, Huntington said, and they do not anticipate any sort of suspension from MLB. Kang is participating in a treatment program recommended jointly by MLB and the MLB Players Association.

"Obviously the expectations from us continue to be high. This is our chance to help him," Huntington said. "This is his second opportunity with us. This is his second chance with us. He knows there's a lot at stake."

Kang will have no further comment until he "gets closer to his return to game action," according to the Pirates. Manager Clint Hurdle said he has not spoken with Kang since he re-entered the U.S., but he will do so "once things slow down for him.

"I'm excited to see what he can do with the opportunity. Life can present its own set of challenges from time to time," Hurdle said. "This is a hard game to play. He's 14 months out of this game. He's coming back. I'm going to take it one day at a time for him, watching him."

Kang played winter ball in the Dominican Republic, and after more than a year away from competition, struggled offensively before being released. Kang spent most of the offseason training near Santiago, Huntington said. The Pirates will put a training plan in place after evaluating Kang's physical condition next week.

"I think it's more about being realistic. We certainly hope we get the Kang that was very helpful to us and was a very good player, but we also need to be realistic," Huntington said. "While we're glad to have him back, and we're going to do everything we can to help him off the field to be able to help him on the field, there is a lot of work to be done."

Huntington said the Pirates remain comfortable with their current infield options, including third basemen and . Kang will start working out at third but could move around the infield. The Pirates hope Kang will contribute in the Majors at some point, but if he struggles to get acclimated even after a simulated Spring Training, they could option him to the Minors.

"We're a long ways away from him coming back to the Major Leagues -- and there is an 'if' part of that statement," Huntington said. "We're a long ways away from anybody taking anybody's job, and we are pleased with the guys we have in-house right now. Kang is going to have to do a lot of work. If he takes care of what he needs to off the field and he gets back to that level, we'll have an interesting decision to make. But we're a long ways away from that."