Keone Kela

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Keone Cole Kela

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Biographical Information[edit]

Pitcher Keone Kela was a 29th-round selection by the Seattle Mariners in the 2011 amateur draft, out of a nearby high school, but he decided to head to college. After spending a year at Everett Community College, he was drafted again in 2012, this time by the Texas Rangers in the 12th round. he signed and began his pro career that season by pitching 9 times with the AZL Rangers, going 0-1, 1.59 as a reliever. In 2013, he played for three different teams, the AZL Rangers again, the Spokane Indians and the Hickory Crawdads, putting up a combined mark of 5-4, 3.46 in 27 outings, all in relief. He collected 3 saves and struck out 52 in 39 innings.

Kela moved up to AA in 2014, after starting the season with the Myrtle Beach Pelicans of the Class A Carolina League. He was 0-1, 2.61 in 8 games when he was moved up to the Frisco Rough Riders of the Texas League on May 4th. He had an outstanding season there, with an ERA of 1.86 in 36 appearances and only 22 hits allowed in 38 2/3 innings. He struck out 55 batters and gave up only one home run while picking up 5 saves.

He continued to impress in spring training in 2015 and made the team's opening day roster. His major league debut came in the second game of the season, against the Oakland Athletics on April 7th. He was called into the game in relief of starter Colby Lewis with the Rangers holding a 3-1 lead to start the 7th inning. he quickly got himself in trouble by allowing a single to Billy Butler and walking Ike Davis; he struck out Brett Lawrie for the first out, but allowed another single, to Stephen Vogt, to load the bases before forcing Marcus Semien to ground into an inning-ending double play. He gave way to Shawn Tolleson at the start of the 8th. He was used regularly by the Rangers and did well, leading to manager Jeff Banister giving him a first opportunity to earn a save on June 17th, in a 5-3 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers. However, in another game-deciding situation the next day, he was charged with a defeat through rare circumstances, as he committed a balk with a runner on third base with two outs in the bottom of the 9th to give Los Angeles a 1-0 win. Fellow rookie Kike Hernandez had distracted him with a feint, and two umpires, Marvin Hudson at home and Jim Joyce at first base, immediately made the call when he flinched. "I didn't need for them to tell me. We could see it," Banister commented after the game. He went 7-5, 2.39 with 1 save in 68 games in his rookie season, but he flopped completely in 2016, his ERA ballooning to 6.09 in 35 games. He still managed a 5-1 record, but the problem was clearly with his control: after walking just 18 batters in 60 1/3 innings as a rookie, he issued 17 walks in just 34 innings as a sophomore. He completed a third season with the Rangers in 2017, finding his groove again in 39 outings by going 4-1, 2.79 with 2 saves.

He started 2018 as the Rangers' closer and did well over the first four months, recording 24 saves in 25 opportunities spread over 38 outings, to go along with a 3-3 record and an ERA of 3.44. This was for a team well out of contention, however, and on July 31st, he was traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates, who delusively fancied themselves to be in contention, in return for two youngsters, Sherten Apostel and Taylor Hearn. He continued to pitch well for the Bucs, back into a set-up role, with a 2.93 ERA in 16 games, his only decision being a loss. In 2019, he had a fairly good season when he was able to take the mound, but a stormy one off it as he was suspended for an altercation with a team employee, missed part pf the year with injuries, and also came into conflict with bullpen coach Euclides Rojas, who was fired at the end of a stormy season. He made 32 appearances, going 2-0, 2.12 with 1 save, showing he was still effective when the off-field stuff did not get in the way. 2020 was then a lost season, both for him and the team, as the Pirates had an awful year in the pandemic-shortened season, while he was limited to just 3 appearances and a total of 2 innings, his season cut short by right forearm inflammation, his fourth stint on the injured list after others in 2016, 2017 and 2019.

On February 14, 2021, he signed a free agent contract with the San Diego Padres, who had seemingly decided that off-season that one could never have enough relievers and seemed to have loaded up on arms well beyond their roster's capacity to accommodate them all. At the time of his signing, it was estimated the Padres had 16 relievers under contract to fill a maximum of 8 slots.

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