Kang expected to miss Pirates' report date

Third baseman awaiting trial in Korea for offseason DUI incident

Kang expected to miss Pirates' report date

BRADENTON, Fla. -- Pirates third baseman Jung Ho Kang will not report to Spring Training on Friday with the rest of his teammates as he awaits a Feb. 22 trial following his latest DUI arrest in South Korea.

General manager Neal Huntington confirmed last week that Kang was not expected to arrive until after his trial, which is set to take place five days after the Bucs' first full-squad workout at Pirate City. Pirates president Frank Coonelly made the news official in a statement released Tuesday morning.

"Based on our current information, Jung Ho will not be in a position to report to camp by the 17th," Coonelly said. "According to our communications with his representatives, it is probable that he will have a trial in Korea on the DUI-related charges on February 22. It is not known how long the trial will last or when any sentencing phase that might be necessary would be scheduled.

"We will continue to do whatever we can to assist he and his representatives in their efforts to resolve all necessary matters so that Jung Ho will be able to travel to the United States to prepare for and to play in the 2017 season, but his reporting date remains undetermined."

Kang must appear before the Seoul Central District Court, according to a Yonhap News report, and he may have to attend two hearings. Pittsburgh's Grapefruit League schedule begins on Feb. 25 with a pair of split-squad games.

Kang's status has been one of the biggest questions for the Pirates since he was arrested in South Korea on Dec. 2; the DUI charge was later revealed to be his third since 2009. Coonelly's statement was released shortly after Pittsburgh's pitchers and catchers took the field for their first Spring Training workout, and questions about Kang led post-workout press conferences with Huntington and manager Clint Hurdle.

"Once he's able to go through that process, we'll be as supportive as we can, make sure we do everything in our power to help him make better decisions as we go forward and be the player we think he's capable of being and that we've seen him be," Huntington said. "When and if we're able to get him in here, he's going to help us and we're going to help him. It's out of our control right now. We've got to dominate our controllables and do everything in our power and help these guys go out and be great."

Kang's driver's license was revoked following the arrest, according to Yonhap News. He has reportedly agreed to participate in a voluntary treatment program recommended by a collectively bargained treatment panel. Details of Kang's program, including its start date and length, have not been made available.

Kang has not yet been disciplined by the league or club. According to the previous Basic Agreement, Kang's participation in the rehab program may be considered as a "mitigating factor" in whatever punishment he receives. The Pirates may not weigh in until after Kang's trial takes place.

If Kang misses any time, it would be a blow to the Bucs' chances as they look to return to the postseason following a 76-win campaign this past year. Pittsburgh is counting on Kang, who's provided powerful offense in two big league seasons, to bat in the middle of the lineup and man third base.

David Freese would step in as the regular third baseman amid Kang's absence, as he did while Kang was on the disabled list in 2016, and the Pirates are confident in their infield depth behind Freese. Adam Frazier, Jason Rogers and the recently acquired Phil Gosselin could back up Freese at third.

"We've got options. We've got depth," Hurdle said. "We've got 62 men in camp right now who we're going to get ready for a Major League camp. When Jung Ho gets here, he'll be one of them. However, we've got guys who live up to our next-man-up mentality like we've been able to do in the past."

Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook, read his blog and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.