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Pirates working to get Kang into winter ball

MLB.com

PITTSBURGH -- Jung Ho Kang's future with the Pirates remains unclear, but he could get back on the field this offseason.

General manager Neal Huntington confirmed the Pirates are working to get Kang, who has spent all season on the restricted list in South Korea, to play in the Dominican Winter League. The news was first reported by the Grandes En Los Deportes website, which posted on Twitter that Kang will play for the Águilas Cibaeñas.

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PITTSBURGH -- Jung Ho Kang's future with the Pirates remains unclear, but he could get back on the field this offseason.

General manager Neal Huntington confirmed the Pirates are working to get Kang, who has spent all season on the restricted list in South Korea, to play in the Dominican Winter League. The news was first reported by the Grandes En Los Deportes website, which posted on Twitter that Kang will play for the Águilas Cibaeñas.

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The Dominican Winter League schedule typically begins in late October. If Kang is able to play, he will make up for some of the time he's missed this season and give the Pirates a chance to evaluate him in a more organized setting.

Kang, who is under contract for 2018 with a club option for '19, has spent the year in South Korea without a work visa following an offseason arrest for driving under the influence, reportedly his third such charge since 2009. Huntington has previously admitted the Pirates will prepare for the possibility Kang may not return next season, but they will remain optimistic.

"That's been an unfortunate reality from the outset that he may never get a visa again," Huntington said Aug. 6. "We worked the process, worked the process again and have not gotten a different result. We'll attack it in different ways again the next time through and hope there is a different outcome. We do need to begin to prepare as if he's not coming back."

To that end, the Pirates reacquired super-utility man Sean Rodriguez on Aug. 5. They also have third baseman David Freese, infielder Josh Harrison and super-utility man Adam Frazier set to return next season.

When healthy, however, Kang was a productive player for the Pirates in 2015-16, hitting .273/355/.483 with 36 home runs. His four-year contract guarantees him $3 million next season, though the Pirates would not have to pay that if he remains on the restricted list. He has a $5.5 million club option (or $250,000 buyout) for 2019.

Around the horn
• Lost in all the history of the Pirates' 1-0, 10-winning win against the nearly unhittable Rich Hill on Wednesday night, Starling Marte made one of his finest plays of the season. Chase Utley smashed a fly ball into the left-center-field gap, and according to Statcast™, Marte needed to cover 100 feet in 5.3 seconds to reach it.

The ball had a 41 percent hit probability for Utley and only a 21 percent catch probability for Marte. The left fielder didn't make the play look particularly challenging -- he didn't dive or jump -- but he didn't have to.

"He absolutely makes it look way easier than it is," manager Clint Hurdle said. "Sometimes he crushes the route efficiency. It's so good. ... Marte can make plays you just take for granted. With his speed and the route efficiency, he's pretty gifted."

• Catcher Francisco Cervelli (left wrist inflammation) was eligible to come off the disabled list Thursday but did not. He went through another workout Thursday afternoon, Hurdle said. The Pirates will meet Friday to discuss Cervelli's next step.

• According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the last time the Pirates won a game with just one hit, as they did Wednesday night, was May 2, 1943, against the Cubs at Forbes Field. Vince DiMaggio hit a double off Chicago's Dick Barrett in the fourth inning of Pittsburgh's 1-0 win.

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

Pittsburgh Pirates, Jung Ho Kang