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Kela, Scheppers impress in first game action

Right-handed duo looking to bounce back from injury-plagued 2016
MLB.com @Sullivan_Ranger

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- The Rangers have been cautious in how they have been using their top relievers early in Spring Training, but that hasn't kept right-hander Keone Kela from standing out.

Kela made his first Cactus League appearance on Tuesday and pitched a scoreless inning in the Rangers' 3-2 loss to the Rockies. Kela needed only 14 pitches to retire three straight hitters, striking out two and getting the other out on a popup.

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SURPRISE, Ariz. -- The Rangers have been cautious in how they have been using their top relievers early in Spring Training, but that hasn't kept right-hander Keone Kela from standing out.

Kela made his first Cactus League appearance on Tuesday and pitched a scoreless inning in the Rangers' 3-2 loss to the Rockies. Kela needed only 14 pitches to retire three straight hitters, striking out two and getting the other out on a popup.

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Kela's previous outings were in two simulated games, during which he threw a combined 2 1/3 scoreless innings without allowing a hit, walking one and striking out three.

"He has been plus, plus, plus all the way," Rangers manager Jeff Banister said. "Strike one and serious in everything he does. There's a mission."

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Kela missed almost three months last season recovering from elbow surgery and was 5-1 with a 6.09 ERA in 35 games.

Right-hander Tanner Scheppers, who has been dealing with injuries for the past three years, also did well in his first Cactus League outing on Tuesday. The right-hander pitched a scoreless fifth inning, allowing one hit and striking out two.

If Kela and Scheppers are past their injury woes, they could help form a power-packed right-handed bullpen that also includes Sam Dyson, Matt Bush, Jeremy Jeffress and Tony Barnette. The Rangers have limited options from the left side beyond Alex Claudio, so the more power arms they have from the right side, the better they can offset that.

"After three years of injuries, I'm just grateful to be out there on the mound," said Scheppers, who has made 60 appearances over the past three seasons. "It's all about getting out there, getting in the swing of things and getting the feel of the game."

Right-hander Mike Hauschild, a Rule 5 pick from the Astros, gave the Rangers two scoreless innings on Tuesday, as well. The only stumble from the bullpen came from Jeffress, who allowed the winning run to score in the ninth. The run was unearned because of right fielder Jared Hoying's throwing error, but Jeffress started the rally issuing a two-out walk.

"An unnecessary walk," Banister said.

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, Tanner Scheppers