The Texas Rangers’ decision to demote right-hander Keone Kela to Triple A Round Rock followed a lackluster effort and unprofessional outing Wednesday during a back-field B game and his reaction when approached about it by teammates.
Details started to emerge Saturday when Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports first reported that the incident that provoked the Rangers’ decision on Kela took place on the final day of spring camp in Surprise, Ariz.
But sources provided additional details, with one calling Kela a clubhouse cancer and saying that the players overwhelmingly support the decision to ship him out.
Sources said that Kela didn’t take his final spring outing seriously, rushing through his inning and not throwing with his typical velocity. Other pitchers in the game took exception to the performance, and Kela heard from some of them and others who weren’t part of the game.
Their message was the same: That kind of display is unprofessional and unacceptable.
Kela responded by explaining that he didn’t want to be injured on the final day of spring training and that he was just working on location. Others weren’t buying it.
“He has an excuse for everything,” one source said.
Kela later “blew up again” and was involved in multiple heated exchanges with more established teammates. The right-hander’s behavior was deemed so unacceptable that the Rangers didn’t allow him to fly from Arizona on the team charter.
The Rangers decided that Kela, projected to be a key member of their bullpen, should be sent to the minors in an effort to preserve clubhouse chemistry. It is the first known punishment for Kela since he joined the Rangers, even though sources have indicated he has a track record of confronting players and causing disruptions in only two seasons in the majors.
One Rangers player said that club officials had Kela’s best interests in mind when they sent him to the minors. Others have told club officials that Kela deserves a second chance. They all agree that Kela, who turns 24 on April 16, is a tremendous talent and could have a long career ahead of him, but only if he can conduct himself more professionally and keep his temper in check.
General manager Jon Daniels said Friday that he is hopeful Kela won’t be away long. He had until Monday afternoon to report to Round Rock.