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Kang Jung-ho taken off Pirates' restricted list, moves closer to bigs

The Pittsburgh Pirates have taken their South Korean infielder Kang Jung-ho off the restricted list, putting him back on the 40-man roster and moving him closer to a return to the majors.

Kang Jung-ho (Yonhap)
Kang Jung-ho (Yonhap)

The Pirates made the move on Friday (local time), and decided to keep him in Triple-A Indianapolis, where he's been playing since Monday.

Kang began his major league comeback bid in Advanced A ball at the start of June, after acquiring his U.S. work visa in April. He missed the entire last season following a DUI-related conviction in March 2017 that resulted in a suspended jail term.

In light of the sentencing, the Pirates placed Kang on the restricted list, which is for players who are unable to play for non-injury reasons, such as arrests or family matters. Kang wasn't making any money or earning major league service time while on that list.

With Friday's move, Kang will be paid the prorated portion of his US$3 million salary.

While the Pirates obviously don't believe Kang is yet ready to play in the majors -- he's 1-for-15 with three strikeouts in four Triple-A games so far -- general manager Neal Huntington said Kang still has put in "a really good effort" and the club felt it was the right time to reinstate him.

"We'd love nothing more than to see him be Jung Ho Kang again,"

Huntington was quoted as saying on "Destroy fastballs, do damage against breaking balls, be an athlete that can play defense at both third and short. And we're seeing signs. We're also seeing signs there's some more time needed."

Kang finished third in the National League Rookie of the Year voting in 2015 after batting .287 with 15 home runs and 58 RBIs in

126 games. The following year, the South Korean had 21 homers and

62 RBIs, with a .255 batting average in 103 games. He is the first position player to jump from the KBO to the big leagues. (Yonhap)