Josh Donaldson, Lorenzo Cain not among Gold Glove finalists

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Rawlings unveiled this year’s Gold Glove finalists on Wednesday, and there were some surprising omissions, especially in the American League. Let’s start there. 2014 winners are asterisked.

American League

Pitcher
Mark Buehrle – Toronto
Sonny Gray – Oakland
Dallas Keuchel – Houston*

Catcher
Jason Castro – Houston
Russell Martin – Toronto
Salvador Perez – Kansas City*

First Base
Eric Hosmer – Kansas City*
Mike Napoli – Texas
Mark Teixeira – New York

Second Base
Jose Altuve – Houston
Brian Dozier – Minnesota
Ian Kinsler – Detroit

Third Base
Adrian Beltre – Texas
Evan Longoria – Tampa Bay
Manny Machado – Baltimore

Shortstop
Xander Bogaerts – Boston
Alcides Escobar – Kansas City
Didi Gregorius – New York

Left Field
Yoenis Cespedes – Detroit
Brett Gardner – New York
Alex Gordon – Kansas City*

Center Field
Kevin Kiermaier – Tampa Bay
Kevin Pillar – Toronto
Mike Trout – Los Angeles

Right Field
Kole Calhoun – Los Angeles
J.D. Martinez – Detroit
Josh Reddick – Oakland

Not making the cut were Adam Jones and J.J. Hardy, both of whom had won three straight Gold Gloves. Dustin Pedroia also missed out after winning back-to-back years, though that’s because he was limited to 93 games this year.

Still, the most notable omission here would seem to be Lorenzo Cain, who gained so much attention for his defense in the 2014 postseason and seemed well positioned after putting in a full season in center this year (he spent considerable time in right field in 2014). The voters got it right by including Kiermaier and Pillar among the finalists despite their middling bats. It’s Trout’s spot that really should have gone to Cain. That said, even though Cain deserved a place in the top three, Kiermaier seems like the best choice for the actual award.

Josh Donaldson‘s omission at third is also odd, particularly in light of his huge offensive numbers (like it or not, offense is usually a key component in getting noticed for Gold Gloves). The metrics say Donaldson ranks among the league’s top third basemen, too, and that he should have gotten Longoria’s spot. Donaldson, though, has always been more error-prone than most, and some are holding it against him.

Also unfortunately absent is Indians rookie shortstop Francisco Lindor, who was the AL’s best defensive shortstop from the moment he was called up this year. Unfortunately, that callup came a few days too late, and he was ineligible for the award because he didn’t play in enough games prior to the beginning September. That’s the case even though he ended up finishing the season with more innings at shortstop (865 1/3) than left field finalist Alex Gordon did in the outfield (864 2/3).

National League

Pitcher
Jake Arrieta – Chicago
Gerrit Cole – Pittsburgh
Zack Greinke – Los Angeles*

Catcher
Yadier Molina – St Louis*
Buster Posey – San Francisco
Wilson Ramos – Washington

First Base
Brandon Belt – San Francisco
Paul Goldschmidt – Arizona
Adrian Gonzalez – Los Angeles*

Second Base
Dee Gordon – Miami
DJ LeMahieu – Colorado*
Brandon Phillips – Cincinnati

Third Base
Nolan Arenado – Colorado*
Matt Duffy – San Francisco
Todd Frazier – Cincinnati

Shortstop
Brandon Crawford – San Francisco
Adeiny Hechavarria – Miami
Andrelton Simmons – Atlanta*

Left Field
Starling Marte – Pittsburgh
Justin Upton – San Diego
Christian Yelich – Miami*

Center Field
Billy Hamilton – Cincinnati
Andrew McCutchen – Pittsburgh
A.J. Pollock – Arizona

Right Field
Curtis Granderson – New York
Bryce Harper – Washington
Jason Heyward – St. Louis*

The NL was much lighter on controversial picks, and one can expect a bunch of repeat winners here. The only certain exception is in center field, where Juan Lagares wasn’t a finalist after being limited by injuries this year. Hamilton or Pollock should get the nod there. I imagine we’ll also see a change from Yelich to Marte in left field and possibly from Gonzalez to Goldschmidt (the 2013 winner) at first base.

The award winners are set to be announced on Nov. 10.

Keone Kela’s return gives beleaguered Pirates a boost

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PITTSBURGH — A surprising positive COVID-19 test when he arrived at summer camp forced Pittsburgh Pirates closer Keone Kela to find creative ways to say in shape. Really creative.

With PNC Park off limits while he followed Major League Baseball’s health protocols, Kela started riding around the city with a stash of balls, a net and time to kill. He long tossed into a net in the parking lot at the Pittsburgh Zoo. He played “Wall Ball” off the pillars of the Fort Duquesne Bridge. He rolled through the South Side bar district in search of open space to let it rip.

“I’ve seen Pittsburgh now during this quarantine,” Kela said with a laugh on Wednesday.

The view will change considerably on Thursday for Kela when he joins the injury-ravaged Pirates for a four-game series in Cincinnati. Six Pittsburgh pitchers currently find themselves on the injured list, including relievers Kyle Crick, Clay Holmes and Nick Burdi. The strain on those left has been obvious.

The last-place Pirates are 27th in the majors in ERA (5.32) and the turnover in the bullpen has been particularly jarring. Nearly two dozen pitchers have taken the hill for Pittsburgh through 16 games, including catcher John Ryan Murphy, who actually tossed a scoreless ninth in a loss to Detroit last Saturday.

The fiery Kela’s arrival provides some semblance of a return to normalcy. Or at least whatever passes for normalcy in 2020.

“Getting him back in our clubhouse and his leadership and the person he is, I’m excited about that,” Pirates manager Derek Shelton said. “Secondly, the guy that we talked about being our closer the second day of spring training is now back in the fold, so it kind of lets guys go into regular roles moving forward, as much as availability allows.”

Kela isn’t worried about being bit by the injury bug that’s made throwing a baseball this season a dicey proposition. He is confident in the path set out by pitching coach Oscar Marin and is confident the form that helped his record 25 saves for Texas in 2018 before moving into primarily a set-up role after being traded to Pittsburgh at the deadline is not far off.

“I don’t really feel like I’ve lost much of the pep in my step,” the 27-year-old said. “The ball’s coming out hot. Curveball is sharp. I feel like I have my command. I’m convicted when I’m up there. I have confidence. I don’t feel like the quarantine necessarily knocked me off my game.”

Kela returns to a team that is a major-league worst 3-13. He’s aware that opportunities to be a difference-maker in the ninth might not come along that often. He’s told Shelton to feel free to use him in whatever high-leverage situation works best and if that’s not the final frame, so be it.

“With the way that we’ve been playing ball, I just want to be able to get out there to secure the innings that are most important for us to move forward and put a (win) on the board at the end of the night,” Kela said. “If I have to face 3-4-5 in the eighth inning because that’s the most pivotal inning, that’s what I’m here for.”

Though Kela is careful to talk only in the present tense, he’s in an unusual spot in his career. The Pirates are in the beginning stages of a reboot, and Kela is one of the few tradeable assets they have. He’s also on the brink of free agency and it’s unlikely Pittsburgh would spend big on a closer for a team whose return to contention might still be a few years down the road.

Not that Kela is in the mood to think about the future. It’s been enough of a journey just to get to the present. He endured a chaotic 2019 that included getting suspended for igniting a brawl in Cincinnati with a couple of wayward pitches and being hit with a two-game ban from the Pirates for an altercation with a member of the team’s support staff.

He talked extensively in the spring about his eagerness to turn the page. Six months later, it’s finally time to do just that.

“This is a game of a lot of failure,” Kela said. “You have to go through the ups and downs and to stay even-keeled through it to find success.”

NOTES: Burdi (right forearm strain) will receive what director of sports medicine Todd Tomczyk called a “biological injection” and at the moment will not require surgery. He will be re-evaluated in 10-12 weeks. … Starting pitcher Mitch Keller (right lat strain) has yet to play catch but could return at some point this season. … Crick (forearm sprain) will attempt to throw to live hitters next week.