The Pittsburgh Pirates have had very little in terms of stories come out of spring training thus far. So is one small story being blown into something much bigger?
Last year, the Pittsburgh Pirates were quite active at the trade deadline. The team made two of the biggest profile moves on the day. They acquired starting pitcher Chris Archer during the closing hour of the 2018 deadline. Archer showed up to the Pittsburgh Pirates as a hero, signifying a big move that the Pittsburgh Pirates fan base so desperately wanted. This was the second of the significant moves the team made. The other move came in the wee hours of the morning on July 31st.
This was the move that brought in one of the best up and coming relievers in baseball by the name of Keone Kela. Kela was acquired from the Texas Rangers for top 10 prospect Taylor Hearn. At the time, he was considered the best left-handed pitching prospect in the Pittsburgh Pirates system. This represented a significant deal, albeit just a reliever, the team gave up a significant prospect for a great and sometimes flat out dominant reliever.
Kela was just that upon joining the Pittsburgh Pirates. After being the Texas Rangers closer for the first half the year, the Pittsburgh Pirates moved Kela into a mixed seventh and eighth inning role along with Kyle Crick. Kela was very effective in that role, pitching to a 2.93 ERA along with a sub 3.00 FIP and xFIP. Also, he struck out a ridiculous 37 percent of batters, which was good for over 12 strikeouts per nine innings pitched.
However, Kela was shut down early and did not pitch in the month of September. The reason was that the 25-year-old was on pace for a career high in innings pitched. With the team out of the playoff picture at that point, it made sense for them to rest their new prized reliever for the 2019 campaign.
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This spring is obviously the first spring training that Keone Kela has gotten to spend with the Pittsburgh Pirates. It is a really good chance for him to spend more time on improving things that Ray Searage wants from his relievers. If there is one thing that Ray Searage has always done a really fantastic job at, it’s developing dominant bullpens. Kela is already good, but he could take an even bigger step forward this season.
Unfortunately, Keone Kela is leaving a negative vibe already for this upcoming season. It has nothing to do with his performance on the field so far this spring training. He has thrown just one inning and struck out two batters while allowing one base runner on a hit. He did not give up any runs in the inning of work. Instead, Kela is making waves because of a personal decision he made regarding how he will interact with the media this season.
It was reported early yesterday by John Perrotto of DK Pittsburgh Sports that Kela was telling media members that he would not be doing interviews this season. This was confirmed this morning by Chris Mack and Colin Dunlap of 93.7 The Fan. Both of them are the two who apparently asked Kela for a few minutes of his time yesterday and were the ones rejected. This, of course, has caused a stir among the prominent media members who look forward to having access to players, especially ones who could be an integral part of the team.
Kela would be an integral part of the team. Like The Fan radio guys said, what if Kela gets the team out of a tough jam that leads to a win? Now, Kela is saying that he would not make himself available to answer questions about his role in the win. Yet, some media members understand it, Kela is in a new city and team and wants to focus on his on-field play rather than worrying about answering questions.
Technically, Kela is not breaking any contractual agreements. In Major League Baseball and the Player’s Association agreement with the media, players have to make themselves available but do not have to participate. So, while Kela’s decision may be upsetting to many members of the media, he actually is following the rules as long as he gives the reporters a chance to ask.
Particularly, I do not care about Kela’s decision. He is a very good reliever and has the chance to make the best one-two punch in the backend in baseball. If he thinks not being distracted by the media and worrying about answering questions will help him perform more effectively on the field, then this could be a positive.
On the other hand, it seems a little ridiculous that he cannot take the time to answer questions here or there for the hard-working beat writers whose jobs depend on getting these types of interviews. It will be interesting to see if Kela’s stance changes on this as he gets more comfortable with his new organization and city. Regardless, Kela is making a decision that he feels is best for him and that should be respected.