A court in South Korea denied Jung Ho Kang’s appeal of his sentence for a DUI arrest, casting further doubt on the Pittsburgh Pirates third baseman’s status for the season.
The off-the-field saga of Pittsburgh Pirates infielder Jung Ho Kang has taken yet another turn. According to a report from Yonhap News Agency, a South Korean court has upheld the suspended eight-month prison sentence given to Kang for a DUI incident during the offseason.
Kang was sentenced in March, but he will avoid jail time as long as he doesn’t violate the terms of his sentence throughout its two-year suspension period. Yonhap News states that Kang and his representatives hoped to appeal the sentence down to a fine, but the court denied this request in light of the fact that this was Kang’s third DUI arrest – something the Pirates were apparently not aware of when signing him in 2015.
To further complicate matters, Kang was denied a work visa to re-enter the United States just over a week before the start of the regular season. There is no indication that is going to change anytime soon, and the rejection of Kang’s appeal likely won’t help his case.
The Pirates have been doing just about all they can to keep their third baseman connected and engaged while his status remains uncertain. They sent him a special pitching machine to work with, and have been communicating with him through his interpreter, per Yonhap News.
The absence of Kang is a significant one for Pittsburgh, as he was a genuine surprise for them in his first two seasons with the club. He slashed .287/.355/.461 with 15 home runs and 58 RBI in 2015, finishing third in NL Rookie of the Year voting. Though injuries limited him to 103 games last year, he was showing even more pop at the plate, belting 21 homers and driving in 62 runs to go with a .255/.354/.513 line.
In the meantime, David Freese has done a solid job at the hot corner, though he spent some time on the DL recently with a strained hamstring. He sports a .271/.373/.443 slash in 23 games. Josh Harrison is off to a nice start while splitting time between second and third base, slashing .292/.355/.482 through 38 contests. Shortstop Jordy Mercer has struggled, however, to a .208/.313/.277 line. Being able to add Kang to the infield mix certainly wouldn’t hurt.
The Pirates are off to an uninspiring 17-23 start to the season, but with no other team in the NL Central really running away with the division yet, they’re still a manageable 5.5 games off the pace. However, the extended losses of Kang and Starling Marte for a PED suspension are tough hurdles to overcome.
Marte will return after the All-Star break, but at this point it’s not unreasonable to wonder if Kang will even suit up at all for the Pirates in 2017. Under contract through 2018 with a 2019 team option, you can certainly speculate whether he has much of a future with the club as well.