Kela happy with Bucs

By John Mehno

For the Mirror

PITTSBURGH — On the night that Chris Archer debuted at PNC Park, the other pitcher the Pirates acquired in a deadline trade reported to the team.

Reliever Keona Kela was in the clubhouse to claim uniform No. 35 and express his happiness at joining the Pirates.

“I was excited to come over here,” he said. “I’m happy I was able to come to a winning club with contention on the line.”

Players have a full 72 hours to report to a new team, and Kela took most of that time. He had been with the Texas Rangers, who were in Arizona when the trade was made in the early hours of Tuesday.

After telling general manager Neal Huntington he would join the team immediately, he decided to return to Texas to pack for the move and close out his residence there.

Whatever the case, he was in the clubhouse on Friday afternoon and said he was ready to pitch in whatever role the Pirates choose.

“I don’t care where I go,” he said. “As long as we go out and win, that’s all that matters to me.”

The most likely spot for Kela is in the eighth inning, the final link to closer Felipe Vazquez. But Kela could also get save opportunities if manager Clint Hurdle opts not to use Vazquez in a game.

“(Kela) can pitch in any spot at any time,” Hurdle said. “It opens some things up. The other relievers I’ve spoken to are all open-minded to whatever they can do to help the club. I reaffirmed to all of them that we’ve got a pretty good thing going, so we’re not going to force anything.

“I’m not going to move players around just to move them around based on numbers. What it gives us is the opportunity on any given day to have a quality guy have a day off and be replaced by a quality guy.”

Kela had 24 saves for Texas, the same number that Vazquez had at the start of play on Friday.

Kela said the trade was something of a shock because it was the first of his career. However, he said he’s all in with his new team.

“We want to win and bring something big to the Steel City,” he said.

Roster moves

The Pirates sent pitchers Nick Kingham and Steven Brault to Class AAA Indianapolis.

Reliever Dovydas Neverauskus was recalled from Indianapolis and is with the Pirates for the fourth time this season. Kela took the other roster spot.

In 29 games at Indianapolis, Neverauskus has a 1.14 earned run average with four saves and 50 strikeouts in 39 innings.

He was on a scoreless streak of 14 innings over 10 games.

He hasn’t had that kind of success in the major leagues, piling up an 11.85

ERA and 2.12 WHIP in his four stints with the Pirates.

Kingham lasted just one inning in his most recent start.

Kang’s surgery

The Pirates released this medical update:

“Jung Ho Kang had surgery to debride cartilage in his left wrist this morning by Dr. Ed Birdsong at Allegheny Health Network.

“Kang first reported discomfort in his left wrist on June 20, 2018. After the initial evaluation, a conservative course of treatment of rest and immobilization was implemented with surgery as a potential treatment option if there was a recurrence of symptoms.

“Kang reported recurrent left wrist discomfort during his batting practice Tuesday afternoon. The Pirates’ medical team and orthopedic surgeons discussed treatment options with Kang and his representatives for their consideration. On Thursday, Kang chose to have surgery performed by Dr. Birdsong at Allegheny Health Network.

“The typical return to play from this type of surgery is four to six weeks.”

The Pirates hold an option on Kang next season for $5.5 million. They can buy that out for $250,000.

Vazquez honored

Vazquez was named National League Reliever of the Month for July.

He is the first Pirates pitcher to win the award since Jason Grilli did in April and May, 2013.

Vazquez was 1-0 with eight saves in July. He struck out 22 in 12 • innings and had a 1.46 earned run average.

Mehno can be reached at: johnmehnocolumn@gmail.com

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