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.”
Yankees first baseman Greg Bird gave his team tons of confidence to hand him the everyday job at first base to start the 2017 regular season, batting .451/.556/1.098 with eight home runs in 51 spring at-bats. But he’s followed that up by hitting .107/.254/.214 through the first month of the regular season.
GM Brian Cashman doesn’t have any intent to demote Bird back to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch reports. Cashman said, “It’s not even an option for me in my mind right now, at all.”
Bird didn’t start Sunday’s game against the Orioles, a 7-4 loss in 11 innings. Lefty Wade Miley started for the Orioles, prompting manager Joe Girardi to put Chris Carter into the lineup at first base. If Bird isn’t able to figure things out, Carter might have an increased role on the team.
Rays starter Chris Archer threw his first pitch to Blue Jays outfielder Jose Bautista behind the slugger’s back with one out in the first inning of Sunday afternoon’s game in Toronto. Bautista and Archer then had a staredown. Home plate umpire Jim Wolf issued warnings to both teams. Bautista ultimately flied out to right field and he appeared to have a quick word with Archer on his way back to the dugout.
Archer could have been exacting revenge — euphemistically known as “protecting his teammate” — because Jays reliever Joe Biagini hit Rays outfielder Steven Souza in the seventh inning of Saturday’s game. Souza was forced to leave the game and underwent an X-ray, which came back negative. He was held out of Sunday’s lineup. Biagini’s pitch did not appear to be intentional.
The Jays won Sunday’s contest 3-1 with no further incident. The two clubs meet again in Tampa for a three-game series starting on May 5, so we’ll see if Sunday was the last of the bad blood between them.