Kang's US work visa was extended Thursday, allowing him to play Major League Baseball for the 2019 season, Adam Berry of MLB.com reports.
This development comes as little surprise given he signed a contract to return to the Pirates back in November. However, it is worth noting given how much trouble Kang had acquiring one last season, as it ultimately delayed his return to the United States until late April. It seems like the Korean infielder has a relatively uneventful offseason on tap, with nothing suggesting he won't be fully available at the start of spring training. He'll look to win a starting role for Pittsburgh this season, though a platoon situation seems to be the more likely outcome as things stand now.
Kang inked a one-year, $3 million deal with Pittsburgh on Thursday.
Kang will return to the Pirates' organization after having his club option for the 2019 season declined in October. The club is hopeful that Kang can get back to being an everyday starter in the infield, though that seems a tad optimistic considering he hasn't played in more than a handful of games since the 2016 season. The third baseman dealt with a wrist injury for the final few month of this past campaign after missing the previous year-and-a-half due to legal issues in his native South Korea. Nevertheless, Kang will have a chance to win a starting job this spring, though a platoon role seems far more likely.
He will hit the free-agent market after missing nearly all of the past two seasons due to a visa issue -- stemming from legal issues in South Korea -- and a wrist injury, though general manager Neal Huntington has expressed interest in retaining Kang's services. The 31-year-old slashed .255/.354/.513 with 21 home runs and 62 RBI in 103 games during his last full season back in 2016.
Kang singled as a pinch hitter Friday, marking his first appearance in the majors in nearly two years.
He led off the seventh inning with a well-struck single to left field off reliever Matt Wisler. Although Pirates general manager Neal Huntington said that Kang's at-bats wouldn't come at the expense of current third baseman Colin Moran, he will draw a start at third base while batting fifth Saturday. Pittsburgh holds an option for $5.5 million with Kang for 2019 and the team could use a boost of power to its lineup.
Kang has been sidelined since mid-June with a wrist injury, though he was recently able to play nine innings in the instructional league with no issues, clearing the way for him to rejoin the big club for the final series of the season. The veteran infielder hasn't appeared in a major-league contest since 2016 due to legal issues, but he's set to end the 2018 campaign on a positive note.
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