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Kang Jung-ho sidelined by wrist discomfort

June 22,2018
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Kang Jung-ho of the Pittsburgh Pirates watches his home run during a game against the St. Louis Cardinals on Oct. 1, 2016. [AP/YONHAP]
The Pittsburgh Pirates’ Korean infielder, Kang Jung-ho, has run into a small bump on the road back to the majors. A wrist injury is keeping him out of the lineup in Triple-A ball.

On Wednesday, Kang was scratched from the starting lineup of the Indianapolis Indians before their game against the Norfolk Tides, a minor-league affiliate of the Baltimore Orioles. The Indians went on to beat the Tides 5-3.

Todd Tomczyk, the Pirates’ director of sports medicine, told local media on Wednesday that Kang was experiencing discomfort in his left wrist. Kang reported it to the team that morning and was examined by a doctor in Indianapolis.

“He did not identify one particular mechanism of injury,” Tomczyk told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Kang is batting .269 (7-for-26) with four RBIs in seven games with the Indians since a promotion from Advanced A ball on June 10. He began his major league comeback bid at the start of June, after acquiring a work visa in the United States in April. Prior to that, he had been playing in the Dominican Winter League but was released by his club in November after a prolonged slump.

Kang missed all of last season with the Pirates after a DUI conviction in Seoul in March 2017 that resulted in a suspended jail term. The Pirates placed Kang on a list of restricted players who cannot compete for non-injury reasons such as arrests or family matters. Kang was not paid and did not earn major-league time while on the list.

Last Friday, however, the Pirates reinstated Kang and placed him on their 40-man roster. The team hopes to bring back Kang as a solid, middle-of-order hitter as he had been in his first two seasons with the team.

Kang made his major-league debut with the Pirates in 2015, signing a four-year contract worth $11 million with an option for a fifth year. He finished third in the National League Rookie of the Year voting after batting .287 with 15 home runs and 58 RBIs in 126 games during his first season.

The following year, he made 21 homers, had 62 RBIs and recorded a batting average of .255 in 103 games. He is the first position player to jump from the Korean league to Major League Baseball.

Meanwhile, Kang’s compatriot in the MLB, Choo Shin-soo of the Texas Rangers, extended his on-base streak to 34 games during a match against the Kansas City Royals on Wednesday. Choo appeared as the Rangers’ first batter and left fielder, recording a hit throughout the game, and helped the Rangers to a 3-2 victory. The team now has a four-game winning streak.

Choo wasted no time extending his on-base spell, jumping on the first pitch against Royals starter Jakob Junis in the top of the first inning and lined it to right field for a single. After stealing second, Choo moved to third on a groundout and scored a run from Nomar Mazara’s sacrifice fly. In his next four appearances, he had two groundouts and two strikeouts.

Although Choo’s batting average slightly dipped from 0.278 to 0.277 along with his on-base percentage (from 0.391 to 0.388), he is now only one game away from tying his record of 35 games on base achieved during the 2012 to 2013 season.

BY BAE JUNG-HYUNE, YONHAP [kang.yoorim@joongang.co.kr]