Pittsburgh Pirates third baseman Kang Jung-Ho, the first player to jump directly from South Korea into Major League Baseball, will not be with the team on opening day, the club confirmed Friday.
Pirates general manager Neal Huntington said Kang's visa application was ongoing and he would not be in the team's starting lineup for the April 3 season opener.
A Korean Broadcasting System report said Kang's visa application had been denied and it was uncertain when or even if Kang would be able to join the Pirates this season.
"A Korean news outlet has reported on a purported development in Jung Ho Kang's effort to secure permission to travel to the United States for purposes of continuing his career as a member of the Pittsburgh Pirates and added speculation regarding a driving incident in a 'third country,'" Pirates president Frank Coonelly said.
"The facts, as we know them, are that Kang still has not been granted permission to travel to the United States under a work visa," Coonelly said.
"We continue to work with Kang and his representatives to present materials and information to the appropriate parties in the United States government that we believe establish that Kang should be permitted to travel to the United States under a work visa."
Kang was convicted in South Korea earlier this month after leaving the scene of a drink driving accident on December 2 in Seoul. He received a suspended eight-month jail sentence and recently filed an appeal, reportedly to be heard next month.
It was Kang's third drink driving arrest in South Korea, having previously being charged in August 2009 and May 2011.
Kang was third in 2015 National League Rookie of the Year voting after making his landmark jump across the Pacific Ocean to the major leagues. He batted .287 with 15 home runs and 58 runs batted in over 126 games in his first season with Pittsburgh.
Last year, Kang hit 21 homers with 62 runs batted in and a .255 batting average over 103 appearances. This year would be his third season under a four-deal contract worth $11 million.