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Pirates notebook: Jung Ho Kang trying to get visa to play in Dominican Republic

| Sunday, Aug. 27, 2017, 2:54 p.m.
The Pirates' Jung Ho Kang fields a ball during the fourth inning against the Cubs on Monday, Sept. 26, 2016, at PNC Park.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
The Pirates' Jung Ho Kang fields a ball during the fourth inning against the Cubs on Monday, Sept. 26, 2016, at PNC Park.
The Pirates' Jung Ho Kang sits in the dugout during a game against the Chicago Cubs at PNC Park last season.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
The Pirates' Jung Ho Kang sits in the dugout during a game against the Chicago Cubs at PNC Park last season.

CINCINNATI — Jung Ho Kang has a team to play for, all he needs is a visa.

Sound familiar? Although Kang remains unable to enter the United States, the Pirates are optimistic he will soon play in the Dominican Winter League.

“We know we have a club that will play him, provided we can get him into the (Dominican Republic),” general manager Neal Huntington said Sunday.

According to published reports, Aguilas Cibaenas agreed to put Kang on its roster. The DWL begins its season in October.

“In our minds, this is the best level of competition we could get him in the offseason,” Huntington said. “He's going to see some major league-caliber pitching, in terms of velocity. He's also going to see some soft-tossers, because a lot of the imports down there are guys who can move the baseball around, add and subtract.”

Unable to get a U.S. visa after his third drunk-driving conviction in South Korea, Kang is on the restricted list. He continues to work out in Seoul, but has not gotten any game action.

“It will be a huge benefit for him to play (in the DWL),” Huntington said. “He's had to keep himself in as close to game condition as he can. He'll prepare himself to play in games down there and hopefully roll that right into spring training if we're able to secure him a (U.S). visa.”

September call-ups

Active rosters can expand Friday, with anyone on the 40-man roster eligible for a call-up. The Pirates will handle their additions in two waves, with the second one coming after Tripe-A Indianapolis finished its season.

Tyler Glasnow will be recalled. Huntington said Glasnow and Steven Brault, who is currently in the Pirates' bullpen, could get spot starts.

“We'll have some continued dialogue on a six-man (rotation) or skipping a start here or there,” Huntington said.

Neither outfielder Austin Meadows nor shortstop Kevin Newman will be among the September call-ups.

“We love what (Newman) has done this year,” Huntington said. “Barring something unforeseen, Jordy Mercer's going to be our shortstop. We've got other guys that are going to get at-bats ahead of (Newman) in September.”

Injuries robbed Meadows of a significant number of at-bats, which he might be able to recoup in winter ball.

“He is open to it,” Huntington said. “We're in the process of identifying a good spot for him and (whether) it's the right thing to do for his overall development.”

Pitcher Nick Kingham, who's in his first season back from Tommy John surgery, also is unlikely to be called up because the Pirates already have a sizable pitcher pool in the majors.

“At some point in time, you have more than you can really use,” Huntington said.

Cervelli vows quick return

Although manager Clint Hurdle stressed there is no timetable for when Francisco Cervelli (left quad irritation) will come off the disabled list, Cervelli has different plans.

“I'll come back in 10 days,” Cervelli insisted.

Cervelli said he felt “like a cramp or something” in his left leg as he ran to the plate Friday. He was activated off the DL that afternoon and lasted 2 12 innings before being injured again.

“It's stupid, man,” Cervelli said. “We weren't expecting this, but it happened. I don't have a lot to say.”

Cervelli's injury history includes a broken knuckle, a fractured hamate, hand and wrist inflammation and a few concussions. Quad discomfort is something new.

“I don't pull muscles. I only get hit, that's it,” Cervelli said with a wry laugh. “We can add this to my resume.”

Management knew it was rolling the dice last year when Cervelli signed a three-year, $31 million extension.

“We knew that it was a risk,” Huntington said. “From a monetary standpoint, from an evaluation standpoint, if we were in most markets, he's still performing as if it's a good contract. The challenge for us is we need to get production above those levels, and it's hard to get that production when a player doesn't play.”

Because of Cervelli's uncertain health, the Pirates are leaning toward carrying four catchers in September.

Rob Biertempfel is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at rbiertempfel@tribweb.com or via Twitter @BiertempfelTrib.

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