Kela received some good news Saturday when free-agent pickup and former Cardinals closer Seung Hwan Oh's agreement with the Rangers was nixed due to a failed physical, leaving three pitchers left to contend for the ninth-inning vacancy. Alex Claudio, who finished last season as Texas' closer while notching 11 saves in 15 opportunities, looks like the tentative frontrunner, though Kela and Diekman would offer harder-throwing options from the right and left side, respectively, if manager Jeff Banister wants more of a power pitcher at the back end. If not for shoulder issues derailing the second half of last season, Kela may have vaulted ahead of Claudio in the pecking order for saves, as he turned in a 2.79 ERA, 0.91 WHIP and 51 strikeouts in 38.2 innings while excelling against both right- and left-handed hitters. Kela offers the most upside of the trio competing for the closing role and would make for a worthy stash option even if Claudio or Diekman breaks camp with the job.
Kela underwent stem-cell therapy in November to counter persistent shoulder soreness, Gerry Fraley of the Dallas Morning News reports. "I feel elastic," Kela said last week. "The body feels good. The arm feels good. I'm ready to go."
Shoulder issues forced Kela to the DL twice in 2017. He's hoping this treatment will allow him to stay on the field for his first full season since 2015. The 24-year-old right-hander has proven to be an effective late-inning arm when healthy, posting an 11.1 K/9 and .205 BAA for his career (.135 BAA last season). He has a case as the closer-in-waiting in Texas, but the durability concerns ding his appeal a bit as an endgame mixed-league stash.
This was his first year as an arbitration-eligible player. Kela missed chunks of time throughout the 2017 season due to shoulder issues, but was able to excel when healthy, posting a 2.79 ERA and 0.91 WHIP over 38.2 innings of relief work. He added 51 strikeouts and displayed a knack for getting opposing batters to miss while limiting the amount of free passes as well. Heading into this season, Kela could win the ninth-inning role, but may wind up as Alex Claudio's setup man to begin the year.
Kela recorded his second save of the season despite allowing a solo home run in the ninth inning of Thursday's win over Seattle.
Despite the righty looking a little rusty since returning from the disabled list, it didn't take manager Jeff Bannister long to turn to Kela in a high-leverage situation. Texas closer Alex Claudio had pitched three innings over the past two games, so Bannister's hand was forced, and Kela probably won't receive another opportunity to close out a game unless a similar situation presents itself. With three runs through 2.1 innings over three appearances since his DL stint, Kela is probably best viewed as speculative flier for owners chasing saves over the final weeks.
Kela surrendered two runs on two hits and a walk while retiring only one of the four batters he faced in Thursday's 10-4 loss to the Mariners.
Making his first appearance since Aug. 3 after a month-plus stint on the disabled list with right shoulder soreness, Kela looked quite rusty in his return to the mound. Manager Jeff Banister called upon Kela with no outs and two on in the top of the sixth inning, and after inducing a flyout from Robinson Cano, the reliever allowed back-to-back run-scoring singles and a walk before exiting. It's expected that Banister will gradually ease Kela back into higher-leverage work, but probably not until the right-hander shows more dependability in the middle innings.
|10/1/2017 vs Oakland|
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|More Pitching Stats|
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|2014||AFA-Myrtle Beach Pelican||0||1||2.61||8||0||0||0||5||10.1||9||3||3||0||0||4||13|
|2016||AAA-Round Rock Express||0||0||0.00||1||0||0||0||0||1.0||1||0||0||0||0||0||3|
|2017||AAA-Round Rock Express||0||0||2.25||4||0||0||0||1||4.0||5||1||1||0||0||1||8|