Gil LeBreton

Kela’s demotion, Beltre’s calf cloud Rangers’ Opening Day picture

Other than that, Texas manager Jeff Banister was asked Saturday, how ’bout those Rangers?

We were referring, of course, to the almost-38-year-old, Hall of Fame-bound third baseman whose calf muscles have suddenly become a team concern.

And, too, there was the mystery surrounding the sudden demotion of talented relief pitcher Keone Kela.

Adrian Beltre will spend his 38th birthday Friday on the 10-day disabled list. He’ll get better. In his 18 previous full seasons in the majors, Beltre has averaged 147 games.

Kela’s return, on the other hand, sounds a bit more problematic, because this was not the first time that his on-field behavior was called into question by the organization, leading to a demotion.

Team president and general manager Jon Daniels was intentionally vague about the reasons for Kela’s abrupt exodus to Triple A. But Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal posted an item Saturday, saying that Kela’s demotion “stemmed from the way the reliever conducted himself during a recent ‘B’ game, according to major league sources. Several of the Rangers’ senior players took exception with Kela’s behavior, triggering a series of heated discussions.”

Hmm. Any public discourse about Kela, let me suggest, needs to be prefaced with the observation that he has all the physical tools to be an outstanding major league relief pitcher.

He has a fastball that regularly sits in the high-90s and a 12-to-6 curveball, of sorts, that can buckle knees.

But even if you’ve only watched him on TV, you know that one of his best weapons is that he stands on the mound and pitches with his hair on fire. Or wants to set the batter’s hair on fire.

This is a bad man, they would say back in the tough LA burbs where Kela spent a lot of his growing up years.

He has had trouble with that rough upbringing, though. An incident at Class-A Hickory, when Kela was 20, led to him being removed from the mound in mid-game and eventually sent down to low-A Spokane to get his act together.

Colleague Drew Davison referenced Kela’s stormy past in a story from three years ago.

“I still have some rough edges,” Kela said back then.

There also was the 13th-inning episode in the playoffs against Toronto two years ago, when Kela and the prickly Josh Donaldson mouthed off at each other, leading both dugouts to empty. Kela is not one to back down.

He is a little more than two weeks away from his 24th birthday, and he already has pitched in 103 games in the major leagues. If Keone Kela wants to reach 110, he needs to listen to the senior citizens on the Rangers team instead of wanting to fight them.

Besides, they might have a sore calf or something.

The demotion to Round Rock, Daniels said, isn’t permanent, but that’s up to Kela.

Demotions can be good. Minor league bus rides are bad. Attitudes seem to change after a five-hour motor coach ride to Midland.

Whatever, the timing of Kela’s disciplinary demotion doesn’t help Banister as he readies for his third season. The bullpen, once considered a roster strength, is suddenly without Kela and injured Tanner Scheppers and running a tad thin.

It cracks the door for relievers Dario Alvarez and Jose Leclerc to be on the Opening Day roster, but Kela has a major role on this team waiting for him this season.

He just needs to confine that fire on the mound to his hair, not his head. And listen to those “senior players,” not whatever else he was trying to do.

Other than that and the old guy with the sore calf, here comes the Rangers season.

Sunday’s openers

Yankees at Rays, noon, ESPN

Giants at Diamondbacks, 3 p.m., ESPN2

Cubs at Cardinals, 7:30 p.m. ESPN

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