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Bullpen could get big boost with Kela's return

MLB.com @Sullivan_Ranger

KANSAS CITY -- Rangers reliever Keone Kela flew with the team to Kansas City on Thursday and is close to coming off the disabled list.

Manager Jeff Banister said it probably won't be Friday, but Kela is close to being fully recovered from the shoulder soreness that has sidelined him since June 27.

KANSAS CITY -- Rangers reliever Keone Kela flew with the team to Kansas City on Thursday and is close to coming off the disabled list.

Manager Jeff Banister said it probably won't be Friday, but Kela is close to being fully recovered from the shoulder soreness that has sidelined him since June 27.

"The plan as of right now is for me to go out and long toss on flat ground and then go from there," Kela said. "I threw this week during the All-Star break and my arm felt great and responded well the next day. I'm pretty confident I'll be able to come back after the break. I feel ready, my mind's there."

The Rangers enter the second half looking for ways to reinforce their bullpen. Getting Kela back would be a good first step. He was 4-0 with a 1.23 ERA and a .110 opponents batting average in his last 21 games, striking out 32 in 22 innings.

"It would be a huge boost to get him back, feeling good and healthy," Banister said. "He is a big part of our bullpen."

He would also be a strong candidate to be the Rangers closer, a job that is currently open since Matt Bush has been moved back to the setup role. But Banister isn't ready to go there yet.

"It would be unfair to speculate on any of that," Banister said.

Kela only has two saves in three years, but does have some Minor-League experience as a closer. He has also been considered a future closer because of his tremendous talent.

"The label of being a closer never really swayed how I'm going to pitch," Kela said. "I feel like from the first inning to the ninth inning, they're all dynamic and you have to close out the inning. I know what comes with being the closer, you have to go out and get the 27th out and stuff like that, but at the end of the day, I just try to focus on getting those three outs regardless of where they're at."

Kela admitted the possibility of being a closer has crossed his mind.

"The ninth inning is big," Kela said. "It's something I know I've always wanted to do with my career, but at the same time, I don't really look for the time, whether it be sped up or slowed down. However, if it comes to me I'm going to deal with it."

Rangers beat

• Outfielder Shin-Soo Choo turned 35 on Thursday

"I know a lot of people say you get old at 35," Choo said. "I'm definitely different than in my early 20's, but I still feel I can play this game."

• The Rangers are expecting the Royals to go with right-hander Jason Hammel, left-hander Danny Duffy and right-hander Ian Kennedy in the three-game series. The Rangers expect to miss All-Star left-hander Jason Vargas.

• The Rangers announced today the club's Minor League award-winners for June: outfielder Drew Robinson was named Player of the Month, RHP Emerson Martinez was named Pitcher of the Month, outfielder Scott Heineman was named Defender of the Month, and RHP Ricardo Rodriguez was named Reliever of the Month.

T.R. Sullivan has covered the Rangers since 1989, and for MLB.com since 2006. Follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger and listen to his podcast.

Texas Rangers, Keone Kela