Pirates demote Gift Ngoepe, first African-born major leaguer

NEW YORK -- The Pittsburgh Pirates have optioned infielder Gift Ngoepe to the minor leagues about a month after he debuted as the first African-born player in the majors.

The slick-fielding South African singled in his first plate appearance last month, but batted .222 without a homer in 28 games prior to the demotion.

Ngoepe picked up baseball as a child because his family lived in the clubhouse of a men's league ballpark where his mother worked. His younger brother, Victor, is also a Pirates minor leaguer.

The elder Ngoepe is headed to Triple-A Indianapolis. Manager Clint Hurdle says he told the 27-year-old to work on his two-strike approach and small-ball hitting. Hurdle told him that if he shows those skills next time he comes to the majors, "you can stay."

The Pirates also designated rookie infielder Alen Hanson for assignment and recalled infielders Max Moroff and Phil Gosselin on Friday.