The Pittsburgh Pirates will be without one of their best relievers to start the 2020 season
Late last week, fans of the Pittsburgh Pirates learned that closer Keone Kela was not working out with the team at PNC Park. Since the get go, manager Derek Shelton could not disclose why Kela was not with the team.
At this point, questions started to arise about if Kela would be ready for the upcoming July 24 Opening Day or not. Now we know that Kela will not be with the team when they start their 2020 season in St. Louis a week from today. This is because the Pittsburgh Pirates have placed Kela on the 10-day injured list.
The Pittsburgh Pirates still have not released any information on what is plaguing Kela. So, it is not known if it is an injury or potentially COVID-19 related.
Unfortunately, injuries have become the story for Kela as a member of the Pirates. After being acquired at the 2018 trade deadline, he was shutdown in September. Then in 2019, he pitched in just 32 games logging just 29.2 innings due to a variety of injuries, as well as a team issued suspension.
The lack of Kela to start the season will create opportunity in the Pirate bullpen. Kela was slated to be the team’s closer, so this opens up opportunities in the 9th inning for other relievers. While the Pittsburgh Pirates should not use a designated closer as it is not an actual position, Kyle Crick and Nick Burdi are the first two pitchers that come to mind in terms of replacing Kela.
This could also create more opportunities for pitchers such as Michael Feliz and Richard Rodriguez to pitch in high leverage situations. A pitcher such as Clay Holmes could have the opportunity to rise into a high leverage role now, too. This will also open up another spot in the Pirate bullpen, which will benefit borderline guys such as Dovydas Neverauskas and Geoff Hartlieb who were battling for the final bullpen spot(s).
This will also lessen, if not altogether kill, the Pirates’ hope of trading Kela before the August 31 trade deadline. With free agency looming for the righty, the Pirates undoubtedly would have looked to try and trade him before August 31. Now, the odds of that happening, or happening and getting anything of value in return, go way down.