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BRADENTON, Fla. (AP) — Pittsburgh infielder Jung Ho Kang was placed on the restricted list by the Pirates while he is delayed in South Korea by visa issues related to a recent DUI arrest.
"It just is a reflection of the reality that he's not here today on March 11, and we need to get him into Bradenton to prepare for the 2017 season," Pirates president Frank Coonelly said Saturday.
While on the restricted list, Kang does not count against the 40-man roster or the 25-man active roster.
Kang received an eight-month suspended prison sentence last week after a DUI arrest in December, his third in South Korea. The sentence was suspended for two years.
"This is not a disciplinary matter," Coonelly said. "And if he is not here and not available to play on a restricted list, he wouldn't be paid — but it's not a disciplinary matter."
In a statement after Kang was sentenced March 3, Coonelly said the team will withhold judgment until meeting with Kang.
"Still want to sit down and talk with Jung Ho face-to-face before making any determinations on discipline," Coonelly said.
Kang, who turns 30 two days after Pittsburgh's opener on April 3, hit 36 home runs in 229 games over his first two major league seasons. He signed an $11 million, four-year contract with the Pirates in January 2015 after the Pirates agreed to pay about $5 million to South Korea's Nexen Heroes for his rights.
David Freese is likely to be Pittsburgh's starting third baseman in Kang's absence.
"I'm with the men here," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "We've got men here that we are working on and planning on walking the season with. If something changes on his end, we will change as well."
Hurdle said he was not ready to say whether Kang has passed the point of reporting too late that he cannot be ready for opening day.
"It's a hypothetical situation so I just wait like everybody else to see how this all plays itself out," Hurdle said. "We haven't seen the man. I know he's working hard. How hard he can work over there to prepare for a date that we don't even know is going to happen?"
Coonelly could not provide a timetable for when he expects or hopes the visa issues can be resolved.
"Neither a statement of pessimism or optimism that Jung Ho will get back in time to report to Bradenton and prepare to be ready to go for Opening Day of the 2017 season," Coonelly said. "It says nothing on that topic."
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