Pirates: Jung Ho Kang to make return Friday against Reds |

Pirates: Jung Ho Kang to make return Friday against Reds

Doug Gulasy
The Pirates' Jung Ho Kang rounds the bases after hitting a three-run home run during the first inning against the Cardinals on Saturday, Oct. 1, 2016, in St. Louis.

Nearly two years since his last game in a Pittsburgh Pirates uniform, Jung Ho Kang will return to the team’s dugout.

The Pirates announced Thursday that Kang would rejoin the team Friday in Cincinnati for the first game of the season-ending three-game series against the Reds.

The infielder’s last appearance for the Pirates came Oct. 2, 2016, in St. Louis, as he went 0 for 4 with a strikeout.

Much changed since then.

Kang missed the 2017 season because of visa issues that arose after the infielder was arrested for DUI, his third such offense, in his native South Korea in December 2016.

Kang returned to the United States in April after acquiring a work visa, reported to the Pirates facility in Bradenton, Fla., for an extended spring training and played 16 minor league games in June for advanced Single-A Bradenton and Triple-A Indianapolis before getting sidelined by a left-wrist injury that required surgery in August.

Before the injury, Kang was batting a combined .310 with three home runs and 16 RBIs in 58 at-bats with Bradenton and Indianapolis, including .235 in his nine Triple-A games.

The Pirates signed Kang out of South Korea to a four-year, $11 million contract in January 2015. The deal includes a $5.5 million club option with a $250,000 buyout for 2019.

Pirates general manager Neal Huntington said Sunday the organization was “still working through exactly where (Kang) fits” for 2019.

“It’s a big jump from Instructional League games to a major league game,” Huntington said Sunday.

Kang, who will wear No. 16 because Kevin Newman is wearing his former No. 27, hit .273 with a .838 on-base plus slugging percentage in 229 games with the Pirates in 2015 and 2016. He had 43 doubles, 36 homers and 120 RBIs in 739 at-bats.

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