On Friday, Rangers’ right-hander Keone Kela was assigned to Triple-A Round Rock to start the season. According to FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal, the demotion wasn’t because of roster overcrowding or poor performance during camp. Instead, it appeared to stem from an undisclosed incident during one of the Rangers’ “B” games on Wednesday.
Rosenthal’s sources said that Kela exhibited less-than-acceptable behavior during the game, which provoked “a series of heated discussions” among veteran players on the team. The team has not elaborated on the events that led to Kela’s demotion, nor have they released a timetable during which the reliever will return to the major league roster. They did, however, mention that the incident has no bearing on the right-hander’s trade value should interested teams make any offers this season.
Kela, 23, is hoping to make a full comeback after undergoing arthroscopic surgery on his right elbow to remove bone spurs last year. He pitched to a 6.09 ERA in 2016, going 34 innings with 4.5 BB/9 and 11.9 SO/9. When healthy, he earned a more respectable 2.39 ERA, 2.7 BB/9 and 10.1 SO/9 in his debut season with the Rangers in 2015. Wednesday’s debacle wasn’t the first heated run-in he’s had while on the team, though it appears to be the first one that has merited a significant penalty.
Club GM Jon Daniels spoke to the press following Kela’s assignment on Friday, explaining that the team was taking some time to address their clubhouse culture. “It doesn’t change how we feel about [Kela], short- , medium- and long-term,” Daniels said. “I have a lot of faith in him as a pitcher and a young man, and hopefully he’ll be back with us at some point going forward.”