CHICAGO -- Pirates infielder Jungho Kang is on his way back to the Majors.
Kang, who hasn't played for the Pirates in nearly two years due to legal trouble and injuries, will join Pittsburgh this weekend in Cincinnati and be active for the final three games of the season. If Kang gets into a game at Great American Ball Park, it will be his first Major League appearance since Oct. 2, 2016.
Kang has been playing games in the fall instructional league in Bradenton, Fla., after undergoing surgery to debride cartilage in his left wrist. Kang completed his rehabilitation by playing five instructional league games. General manager Neal Huntington said Kang will get some playing time, but he didn't anticipate him starting all three games.
"We only have three games left in our season after today and wanted to respect his hard work, his intent to get back, his work to get back," Huntington said. "It's not really going to help us a lot in our evaluation process as to where we take this, but at the same time, give him an opportunity to get back to the big leagues, which is any guy's goal."
Kang was not able to enter the United States last year after a December 2016 DUI arrest in South Korea, later revealed to be his third such charge since 2009. He was also investigated but not charged by the Chicago Police Department in 2016 after a sexual assault allegation was made against him.
Kang acquired a work visa in late April, completed a modified Spring Training program in May and played 16 games for Class A Advanced Bradenton and Triple-A Indianapolis before he was placed on the Minor League disabled list with a left wrist sprain. Rest did not alleviate the pain in Kang's wrist, so he opted for surgery on Aug. 3.
This is the final guaranteed season of Kang's four-year, $11 million contract, which includes a $5.5 million club option for 2019. It seems unlikely the Pirates will exercise that option given the uncertainty surrounding Kang, who will turn 32 in April. But they could buy out Kang's option for $250,000 and attempt to sign him to a new contract.
"Truth be told, there's not going to be a whole lot of value in the evaluation process of one game or a one-plus-game look," Huntington said. "It's more respecting all the work that he's put in and trying to see if there's value in adding to the continuing relationship going forward."
Kang hit .273/.355/.483 with 36 home runs and 120 RBIs in 229 games for the Pirates in 2015 and '16.
"We like the upside of the player. Now, we just need to put a dollar figure to the attainability of that -- the risk that we're willing to take, the risk he's willing to take -- and does it make sense? We'll see where that process plays out," Huntington said earlier this month. "We'll see where this market takes us.
"We like the player. We like the upside. Obviously, to add a right-handed bat that can hit 25 to 30 home runs and play good defense, if we can get him back to that, that's a really interesting player. But we also haven't seen that player in two years. So if there's a middle ground, hopefully we'll be able to find it."
Right-hander Chris Archer will not start Sunday's series finale in Cincinnati due to "continued discomfort of a left groin strain from earlier this season," the Pirates announced on Thursday. Archer struck out nine over six scoreless innings against the Cubs on Tuesday at Wrigley Field. He has been dealing with discomfort since taking an awkward swing on Aug. 20, but he pitched through it.
"Given the point of the year, given how well he's throwing, given how he's feeling and the fact that it is impacting him a little bit, we just felt it was in his and our best interest to go ahead and have someone else make that start," Huntington said.
Who makes that start has yet to be determined, however. Right-handers Nick Kingham and Jameson Taillon are scheduled to pitch the first two games of the series. Huntington said the Pirates "may be bullpenning" their season finale.
Outfielder Jordan Luplow will also miss the final weekend of the season after undergoing an appendectomy on Thursday morning at Northwestern Hospital in Chicago. Luplow's estimated recovery time is approximately two to four weeks.