Injury prevents Rangers from testing righty in closer role; Rodriguez called up from Double-A
By Chris Bumbaca
NEW YORK -- Less than three weeks removed from coming off the disabled list after battling right shoulder soreness, Keone Kela headed back to the 10-day DL on Tuesday, retroactive to Saturday, with the same injury. The Rangers purchased the contract of Ricardo Rodriguez from Double-A Frisco in a corresponding move.
Kela described the injury as an "ongoing process."
"It is what it is, and now I just have to look at moving forward and how I can come back stronger," Kela said, following the Rangers' 5-2 loss to the Mets on Tuesday.
Right now, Kela said he is focused on being the best teammate he can be despite his absence.
"Obviously, it's not the news I wanted to here," Kela said. "I can't let it discourage me or bring my energy level down. We still have a job to do. We're still in a Wild Card race."
Kela still hasn't spoken with team doctors and trainers to devise a plan for his return, but he did not sound optimistic that he would be back by Aug. 15, when he is first eligible to come off the DL.
"For the time being right now, I'm down," Kela said. "I just gotta take it step by step."
Kela owns the lowest opponent batting average among qualified Major League relievers (.128), as the right-hander has gone 4-1 with a 2.36 ERA in 34 appearances this season. Kela's first DL stint ran from June 30-July 19.
Rangers manager Jeff Banister insisted that the club did not activate Kela too early from his previous DL stint, and it had exercised caution in his usage since he returned to action.
Other than the bad news regarding Kela's injury, Banister now loses the opportunity to potentially evaluate Kela in the closer role down the stretch. The manager affirmed that Kela's stuff is ninth-inning material before Tuesday's game.
"Any time you put a guy on the DL, and you get a limited number of games left, to take a look at a guy in that position would be challenging, yes," Banister admitted.
Kela was enjoying a 12 2/3-inning scoreless streak with 19 strikeouts and just four hits allowed over his past 13 appearances. The success, he said, was a product of executing pitches and having fun, along with what he called a little bit of luck.
Rodriguez, meanwhile, has risen through the Rangers' system at a rapid pace, despite not being ranked among MLBPipeline.com's list of Texas' Top 30 Prospects. The right-hander began the season at Class A Advanced Down East after Tommy John surgery limited him to just seven appearances across 2015 and '16, but he was promoted to Frisco in late June. There, he posted a 1.20 ERA (two earned runs allowed in 15 innings) with five saves and a 2-0 record. The 24-year-old departed Double-A with an 11 1/3-inning scoreless streak.
The team hasn't detailed a specific role for Rodriguez, but the right-hander will work out of the bullpen. He said he normally entered games in the eighth or ninth inning, and he is simply excited to be called up to the Majors for the first time.
"That was a really big goal, working on that," Rodriguez said. "Now I'm here. I'm excited to be here. Let's do our job."
Chris Bumbaca is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.