Kang Jung-ho moves to Aguilas CibaenasPittsburgh Pirates’ third baseman Kang Jung-ho, his big league career in limbo following a drunk driving conviction, has signed with a Dominican Republic club.
The winter league season usually starts in late October and Dominican natives, prospects in search of playing time and major league veterans rehabbing from injuries often play there.
Kang hasn’t appeared for the Pirates this year after receiving a jail term over drunk driving charges earlier this year. He remains without a U.S. work permit.
Holders of Korean passports may stay in the Dominican Republic without a visa for up to 90 days.
Pirates general manager Neal Huntington said he hoped playing in competitive games could help Kang get his career back on track.
“That will make up for some of his lost at-bats this summer and put him in a position where if we’re able to secure a visa for him this offseason, he won’t have been 18 months without playing competitively,” Huntington was quoted as saying by Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “In our minds, this is the best level of competition we could get him in the offseason.”
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. Last year, the Korean had 21 homers and 62 RBIs, along with a .255 batting average in 103 games.
Last December, Kang fled the scene after crashing into a guardrail on his way to his hotel in southern Seoul. Kang’s blood alcohol content level was 0.084 percent. The legal limit is 0.05 percent.
The DUI arrest was Kang’s third in Korea. His driver’s license has since been revoked under the three strikes law.
He got an eight-month sentence, suspended for two years, in March and lost his appeal two months later.
The suspended jail term means Kang will avoid actual prison time if he stays out of trouble over the next two years, but he’d hoped the court would reduce the punishment to a fine and open the door for him to re-apply for a U.S. visa.
The Pirates have 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.