Keone Kela has long been a thing of legend, similar to the way Joey Gallo is for his power hitting but not quite to that level because, let's be honest, home runs are sexier than triple-digit heat, if only slightly.
The Rangers pitching prospect is the definition of a late-inning reliever. He doesn't have an ounce of starter in him, so it'd be in the Rangers' best interest to not even tinker with the idea. He throws hard, throws harder and occasionally mixes in a changeup.
On Monday night, Rangers fans were able to get an up close look at the 21-year-old big righty in a televised Cactus League game against the Reds, and Kela looked the part of a late-inning reliever, and dare we say, closer?
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Kela fanned former NL MVP Joey Votto after starting off with a walk to Billy Hamilton, then fooled Marlon Byrd with a changeup after three straight upper-90s fastballs, inducing a weak ground out.
“He was able to handle the situation, to slow himself down and power his fastball through the strike zone,” manager Jeff Banister told reporters. “The way he used his fastball was pretty impressive.”
He was lifted after two-thirds of an inning in his first attempt this spring to pitch on back-to-back days after his 12-pitch perfect inning on Sunday. He was, in fact, the first Rangers pitcher to work on back-to-back days this spring and it was his third outing in four days.
The Rangers' closer job is Neftali Feliz's, but it seems pretty likely now that Kela will start the season on the big-league roster, and keep your eyes on this kid if Feliz begins to struggle with his velocity and effectiveness.
Kela will be 22 just a week after the season begins, and we all know what happened the last time the Rangers gave a 22-year-old a shot to be the full-time closer — Feliz won AL Rookie of the Year honors in 2010. Just sayin'.