Jung Ho Kang is back in the United States for the first time in more than a year and plans to rejoin the Pirates.
The veteran third baseman had been unable to secure a U.S. work visa after being convicted in January 2017 of driving under the influence in his native South Korea for the third time.
But Pirates president Frank Coonelly told The Athletic on Thursday that Kang "has been allowed to re-enter the United States."
“We are encouraged by the steps that Jung Ho has taken to date and are hopeful that having the game he loves taken away from him for more than a year has driven home the reality that he must make better life decisions as we move forward together," Coonelly said. “As we have communicated to him throughout this process, we will work to provide Jung Ho with the resources and support necessary for him to meet the high expectations that we have for him as a member of our organization and our community.”
Shortly before The Athletic's story was posted online, a man who described himself as a St. Louis-based immigration attorney posted a photo of himself and Kang that appeared to have been taken at New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport.
The tweet from Javad Khazaeli, which was quickly deleted, read: "When being an immigration attorney is more important than being a @Cardinals fan. The @Pirates are going to be tougher. #welcomeback #junghokang"
Kang, 31, finished third in NL Rookie of the Year voting after joining the Pirates in 2015. He has 35 home runs and 120 RBIs with an .838 OPS in two major league seasons. He played briefly in the Dominican Winter League this offseason with limited success.