BRADENTON, Fla. -- Derek Shelton hasn't made clear his choice for closer. He told DK Pittsburgh Sports at PiratesFest last month he'd prefer to let that play out, while also citing Kyle Crick and Keone Kela as candidates.
Dejan KovacevicinterviewedCrick on this Tuesday morning, and I did likewise with Kela.
Kela's resume to be the closer speaks for itself. He was used as the eighth inning guy for most of 2019, he posted some strong numbers in 2019 -- including a 2.12 ERA and 1.01 WHIP while averaging 10 strikeouts for every nine innings pitched -- and he has experience in the role. In fact, he was the Rangers' closer before the Pirates acquired him during the 2018 trade deadline. In the first four months of that season, he saved 24 of his 25 opportunities. He has been as reliable as they come on the mound over the last three seasons.
Even if Kela is not the closer, he will be pitching high leverage innings late in the ball game.
“I think he’s going to pitch very meaningful innings at the back end of the game," Shelton said during PiratesFest in January. "I’m excited to watch him. I mean, it’s a big arm with really good stuff. I’ve had multiple good conversations with him this offseason.”