Shelton’s first roster call: Kela will close

BRADENTON, Fla. -- The Pirates' pitchers and catchers had their first workout Wednesday morning, and shortly after, Derek Shelton made his first roster announcement: Keone Kela is the closer.

Shelton has been quiet about which players will be in which role thus far, wanting to see his players in person first rather than just relying on video.

Kela, however, was the exception.

"To answer that question, candidly, Kela's going to be the guy at the end of the game," Shelton told reporters after the workout.

Shelton and Kela had not talked about him being the closer before PiratesFest in January, which is why he said at the time only that Kela would pitch at the back end of ballgames.

"[Kela being the closer] was my expectation all along, but I wanted to sit down and talk to him about it," Shelton said. "I think he's put himself in a position where he deserves to do that."

Kela pitched to a 2.12 ERA and 1.01 WHIP in 2019. He saved 24 games with the Rangers in 2018 before being traded to the Pirates during the July trade deadline.

"It feels really good," Kela said at his locker about going back to the closer's role.

In a conversation Tuesday, Kela told me he was not chasing a label, but instead wanted to win and help build a winning culture.

He reiterated that Wednesday.

"If it's the ninth inning, great. If it's 3-4-5 in the eighth, and that's what I've got to do to close that inning, [I'll do it]," Kela said. "My ego's not stroked with an S next to me. I want to get a dub."

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