On Wednesday, the Pittsburgh Pirates held their first pitchers and catchers workout of Spring Training and new manager Derek Shleton officially named his closer
At Pirate Fest last month, new Pittsburgh Pirates general manager Ben Cherington would not commit to Keone Kela being the team’s closer in 2020. This came as a bit of a a surprise to fans as the former Texas Rangers’ closer was widely expected to be the team’s closer. Well, he now officially is.
Wednesday morning, Pirate pitchers and catchers held their first workout of the spring. Following this workout new manager Derek Shelton held his first meeting with the media this spring. Part of this meeting was Shelton officially naming Kela the team’s closer.
Again, this news comes as no surprise. Prior to being traded to the Pirates in July 2018 and moving to a set up role, Kela was the the closer for the Rangers. Closing out games in Texas, the righty posted a 3.28 ERA, 2.85 FIP, and he recorded 43 strikeouts in 35.2 innings of work. In these 35.2 innings Kela logged 24 saves.
Since joining the Pirates, he has continued to pitch well. The past two seasons he has pitched 45 innings for the Pirates. In these 45 innings he owns a 2.40 ERA, 3.33 FIP, he has struck out 55 batters, and he has recorded one save.
His number with the Pirates would be even better if not for injury. Due to a shoulder issue, Kela struggled early on in 2019 before missing over two months due to injury. He also missed time due to a team issued suspension.
While the Pirates will likely struggle in 2020, Kela has the potential to be one of the best closers in the National League. With Kela set to hit free agency at the end of the 2020 season, if he pitches as expected, he could net the Pirates a big return at July’s trade deadline.