Pirates’ Kang Jung-ho has surgery on his wrist
The Pirates said Friday that Kang had the procedure to debride cartilage in his left wrist, and the typical recovery time is four to six weeks.
Sources close to Kang said earlier that he would miss the rest of the season after the operation.
Regardless of Kang’s exact recovery time, it’s a blow to what once seemed to be a promising big league career.
The 31-year-old missed the entire 2017 season due to legal trouble in Seoul. Kang was arrested and charged with fleeing the scene of an accident after driving under the influence of alcohol in Seoul in December 2016. It was his third DUI arrest in Korea, and he received an eight-month jail term, suspended for two years, in March 2017. He lost his appeal two months later.
Though he avoided prison time, Kang was denied a U.S. work permit after his arrest and was unable to enter the United States to play for the Pirates. He got his visa in April this year.
He joined the Pirates’ Advanced A affiliate, the Bradenton Marauders, in early June, and batted .417 with three homers and 11 RBIs in seven games before earning a promotion to the Triple-A Indianapolis Indians.
In nine games with the Indians, Kang batted .235 with five RBIs and no homers, and was placed on the disabled list on June 27 with left wrist sprain. The Pirates said Kang first experienced discomfort on June 20.
According to MLB.com, Pirates director of sports medicine Todd Tomczyk said that Kang was dealing with “recurrent” symptoms in his left wrist. Kang decided to have surgery Thursday, and the Pirates expedited the process to have it done Friday.
Tomczyk told MLB.com that Kang was dealing with a soft-tissue injury caused by a “buildup over time,” rather than one specific swing or play.
Though Kang could return to the field by mid-September by the club’s estimate, the Pirates aren’t counting on him to help them in 2018.
Kang, a former All-Star shortstop in the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO), mostly played third base in the majors. But the Pirates now have Colin Moran and David Freese splitting time at third base, and Jordy Mercer playing regularly at shortstop.
“It would be a great addition if he’s healthy and Jung-ho again,” general manager Neal Huntington said last Sunday. Kang signed a four-year, $11 million deal before the 2015 season, with a $5.5 million team option for the fifth season. He is the first Korean position player to jump from the KBO to the big leagues.
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, he had 21 homers and 62 RBIs, with a .255 batting average in 103 games.