They had to sweat it out for a few extra nights, but two of the youngest players in the Texas Rangers’ clubhouse finally got the answer they wanted to hear.
Rookies Delino DeShields Jr. and Keone Kela were told after Friday night’s game that they had made the Rangers’ Opening Day roster.
DeShields, an outfielder the Rangers selected from the Astros in December’s Rule 5 draft, adds a speed element manager Jeff Banister hopes will come in handy off the bench in a pinch-running role. He’ll be Leonys Martin’s primary backup in center field.
“I was anxious to find out what they wanted to do with me,” DeShields, 22, said. “It was an exciting moment for me for sure.”
Kela, a young, hard-throwing right-hander, pitched at Double A Frisco last year. He had a very impressive spring and hadn’t allowed a run until the Mets scored three against him Friday night.
He didn’t necessarily pitch poorly as several ground balls turned into infield hits with defensive replacements playing the infield in the seventh inning. He tried to conceal his smile when Banister told him the news.
“It’s a blessing. I’m grateful to be here,” Kela, 21, said. “My family is very, very happy. I couldn’t ask for a better feeling right now.”
The Rangers’ 25-man Opening Day roster isn’t completely settled. The deadline is 2 p.m. Sunday.
Right-hander Anthony Bass traveled with the team Saturday night to Oakland and will be on the roster barring a last-minute deal before the deadline. Otherwise, Rangers general manager Jon Daniels said, Bass will start the season in the big league bullpen.
As it stood Saturday night, nine players will be on an Opening Day roster for the first time, including five rookies.
Three of those nine — DeShields, Kela and right-hander Logan Verrett — have no major league experience. Verrett was born in The Woodlands, attended Corpus Christi Calallen High School and Baylor and now lives in Arlington. He joined the team two days ago after being claimed off waivers.
DeShields and Kela weren’t favorites to win spots on the Opening Day roster when spring training began.
DeShields’ Rule 5 situation put the Rangers in a position to either add him to the roster (where he must remain the entire season) or put him on waivers and hope no team selected him. If that had happened, DeShields would have been sent back to the Astros (along with $25,000) unless the two clubs worked out a trade.
“The quality of [his] at-bats got better as the spring went on,” Daniels said. “The base running is going to be a forte. He’s not like a slap hitter; there’s more strength in his swing. We’re pretty pleased where he’s at and looking forward to having him on the club.”
DeShields hadn’t played above Double A with the Astros, where he played second for the first four years before moving to center field for 2014.
“It’s going to be challenging not being able to play every day like I’m used to, but I like challenges,” DeShields said. “It will be an interesting and fun one.”
DeShields’ ability to play second in a pinch, where he has worked occasionally this spring, also was a plus in Banister’s estimation. DeShields said Banister wants him to become a student of the game.
“Really take notes and get a feel for being up here,” he said. “I’m taking the opportunity and will take full advantage.”
Kela has a mid- to high-90s fastball and added an effective changeup this spring. He allowed three runs on six hits in 9 2/3 innings this spring, but all three runs and half the hits came Friday night. He struck out 11 and walked two this spring.
“I just prepared and played my heart out,” he said. “I still felt every time I stepped on the mound and threw the ball well I was in contention to take a spot.”
Kela has the type of stuff that could eventually earn him a spot in the back end of the bullpen, Daniels said.
“He’s got that kind of ability,” said Daniels, adding that Banister and pitching coach Mike Maddux would let Kela grow into a defined role during the season. “How Jeff [Banister] wants to deploy him Day One and what he graduates to over time and what kind of role does he earn over time ... but he’s got that kind of ability to pitch late in a game.”
Stefan Stevenson, 817-390-7760
Opening Day newbies
The Rangers are likely to have nine players on their first Opening Day roster, including rookies Ryan Rua, Keone Kela, Delino DeShields Jr., Logan Verrett and Phil Klein. * — No major league experience.
RHP Keone Kela*
36 games, Double A, 2014
2B Rougned Odor
114 games, MLB, 2014
OF Delino DeShields Jr.*
114 games, Double A, 2014
RHP Roman Mendez
30 games, MLB, 2014
RHP Logan Verrett*
28 games, Triple A, 2014
RHP Nick Martinez
29 games, MLB, 2014
OF Ryan Rua
28 games, MLB, 2014
RHP Phil Klein
17 games, MLB, 2014
OF Jake Smolinski
24 games, MLB, 2014