Pending FA Kela (forearm) likely done for '20

September 16th, 2020

With only a week and a half remaining on the schedule, closer likely won’t return to pitch for the Pirates this season.

Kela, who has been sidelined by right forearm inflammation since Aug. 21, is working his way back from the injury. The Pirates haven’t ruled him out yet, but general manager Ben Cherington acknowledged on Tuesday that “the calendar’s starting to work against us.”

Pirates director of sports medicine Todd Tomczyk offered a similar report on Wednesday while providing the team's weekly injury updates. Kela is playing catch but still not throwing off the mound.

“The medical team [is] very encouraged by the overall prognosis on Keone and for his return to pitching in the near future,” Tomczyk said. “But unfortunately, we’re running out of days.”

Kela, 27, will be a free agent at the end of the season. After missing Summer Camp due to positive COVID-19 tests, Kela made only three appearances before walking off the mound with a forearm injury. Tomczyk said there would be a “better chance” that Kela would return to competition if the Pirates’ season stretched into October, but they’ve simply run out of time to get him into a game this year.

“I believe that he’s going to be fine,” Cherington said. “Not concerned that there’s any structural issue at all, but he felt something in that muscle belly. Until he feels fully confident in being able to throw his curveball as hard as he always throws it to be able to have success, it’s not going to make sense for him to go out there.”

Kela has been extremely effective for the Pirates when able to take the mound, posting a 2.49 ERA with 58 strikeouts in 47 innings over 51 appearances since he was acquired prior to the 2018 Trade Deadline. But he was shut down early that September, limited to 32 appearances last year due to right shoulder soreness and suspensions, and he was only able to make three appearances this season.

Trainer’s room
• Right-hander continues to progress well in his rehab from Tommy John surgery, as he threw a two-inning live batting practice session on Tuesday at Great American Ball Park. Tomczyk noted that Taillon has been “strongly lobbying for game activity in the Major Leagues” at some point before the season ends, but called that idea “highly unlikely.”

“I’m not saying we’re entertaining it, but he’s lobbying very, very hard,” Tomczyk said, smiling. “It’s no surprise with Jameson.”

• Reliever is on the 10-day injured list with what Tomczyk called a “reaggravation” of the lat muscle strain that caused him to miss a month earlier this season.

“His arm just hasn't recovered to the point [where he’s able] to go out there, put himself in a good position to help the team and succeed,” Tomczyk said.

• Reliever (right shoulder inflammation) has not resumed throwing, but he is rehabbing and preparing to potentially pitch in winter ball this offseason.

• Outfielder (fractured right elbow) was cleared to begin range-of-motion exercises beginning Thursday. He will remain in Pittsburgh for another week before transitioning his rehab to his offseason home.

• Reliever (low back inflammation) wanted to keep pitching through his injury, Tomczyk said, but the club decided it was in his best interest to have him stop throwing for the time being and focus on his lower-half mobility. He is also unlikely to return this season.

Spring Training schedule released
Major League Baseball on Wednesday unveiled the complete Spring Training schedule for 2021, including the Pirates’ Grapefruit League slate of games.

The Pirates are scheduled to play 33 games, including 17 home dates at LECOM Park in Bradenton, Fla. They will open on the road on Feb. 27, traveling south to play the Red Sox in Fort Myers, Fla. The Bucs’ spring home opener is set for Feb. 28 against the Braves. Information regarding ticket pricing and on-sale dates will be announced at a later time, according to the club.

The Pirates are scheduled to begin the 2021 regular season on the road against the Cubs at Wrigley Field on April 1.