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Kela: 'I don't know' reason for suspension

Setup man, trade candidate says little about alleged confrontation
@adamdberry
July 25, 2019

PITTSBURGH -- As expected, the Pirates activated Opening Day setup man Keone Kela from the suspended list before Wednesday night’s game against the Cardinals at PNC Park. What comes next is less certain. Kela hasn’t pitched for the Pirates since May 4 due to a right shoulder injury. He rejoined

PITTSBURGH -- As expected, the Pirates activated Opening Day setup man Keone Kela from the suspended list before Wednesday night’s game against the Cardinals at PNC Park. What comes next is less certain.

Kela hasn’t pitched for the Pirates since May 4 due to a right shoulder injury. He rejoined the club last weekend, but the team issued a two-game suspension on Monday for an unspecified violation of his contract. According to multiple reports, Kela was involved in a clubhouse argument with a front-office staffer.

When asked what happened, Kela responded, “What happened? Nothing happened.” Kela said the Pirates did not provide an explanation for his suspension, and he did not ask for one.

“I don’t know,” Kela said. “I’ve been told as much as you guys have seen on Twitter.”

Asked specifically about the Yahoo! Sports report that he was suspended following an altercation with Hector Morales, the Pirates’ director of cultural readiness and peak performance coach, Kela said, “I wouldn’t say it’s not true. I wouldn’t say it’s fact. ...

“I’m just here to pitch. I’m not really concerned with what’s being put out there in the ether,” Kela said. “I know the truth. I’m not going to get into any deeper details with it because it’s not going to benefit me or the organization.”

Sitting in the chair in front of his locker, Kela said he still felt comfortable with the Pirates. After seeing Kela early Wednesday afternoon, manager Clint Hurdle agreed that the matter had been settled inside the clubhouse.

Asked about Kela’s claim that the reason behind the suspension was not explained, Hurdle deferred to club officials. The Pirates’ initial statement on Monday said the club would not comment any further on Kela’s suspension.

Back in Pittsburgh’s bullpen, Kela worked a scoreless sixth inning with one strikeout in the Pirates’ 14-8 loss to the Cardinals on Wednesday night. Hurdle previously said he wanted to see Kela in a low-leverage situation before returning him to the late innings. But how much longer will Kela be in black and gold? The Pirates are “more than willing” to trade Kela before the July 31 Trade Deadline, MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal reported on Wednesday.

“I haven’t thought about it, but I’m open to it. It’s part of our business,” Kela said. “I don’t mind what happens. If I have a jersey, I have a job.”

The Pirates parted with prospects Taylor Hearn and Sherten Apostel to acquire Kela from the Rangers before last year’s Trade Deadline. In the year since, Kela has pitched 27 innings over 30 appearances for Pittsburgh while recording a 3.67 ERA and 1.11 WHIP. Last August, Kela was every bit the dominant reliever the Bucs wanted, logging a 0.64 ERA with 21 strikeouts in 14 innings before he was shut down in early September.

Kela began this season as the primary setup man for closer Felipe Vazquez, but he battled through shoulder inflammation and struggled out of the gate. Kela was shut down after throwing seven pitches in a May 4 outing against the A’s, and an attempted rehab assignment later that month was cut short after one appearance.

Kela flashed his lights-out stuff during his most recent rehab assignment with Triple-A Indianapolis and struck out the side in his final outing last Thursday. General manager Neal Huntington said on Sunday that the Pirates were very encouraged by the reports they received on Kela’s recent work.

“I feel good, man. I’m healthy. Excited to get back out there,” Kela said. “My arm, it’s full strength. I’m just ready to go out there and pitch, get three outs.”

Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook and read his blog.