Dodgers News: LA Inks Veteran Reliever to Minor League Deal

The Dodgers signed veteran relief pitcher Keone Kela to a minor-league contract on Wednesday after he was released by the Diamondbacks.

The Dodgers have a pretty good recent track record of taking pitchers who have struggled in other organizations and turning them into solid big-league arms. Just on this year’s team, you can point to Evan Phillips, Yency Almonte, and Alex Vesia in the bullpen and Andrew Heaney and Tyler Anderson in the rotation.

Could Keone Kela be next on that list?

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According to MLB’s transactions page, the Dodgers signed Kela on Wednesday to a minor-league contract after the Diamondbacks released him.

Kela had Tommy John surgery last May and had been working his way back, but his time in Triple-A with the DBacks was short and not very sweet. He threw nine innings with Reno, striking out 11 but issuing five walks and allowing two home runs. The end result was an ERA of 5.00 and his walking papers.

At his peak, Kela was an outstanding pitcher with the Rangers and the Pirates, posting a 2.84 ERA with an 11.2 K/9 from 2017 to 2019. His 2020 season was cut short by injury, and he signed with the Padres prior to the 2021 season. He made just 12 appearances with San Diego before going under the knife for Tommy John surgery.

Kela was born in Los Angeles and started high school there, although he ended up graduating from a school in Seattle. He didn’t pitch much in high school and actually went to college as a center-fielder. The Rangers like his arm and drafted him as a pitcher, a decision that worked out pretty well for all concerned.

Kela’s time with Pittsburgh got a little weird in 2019, when he was injured for nearly three months and then suspended twice in the span of two weeks. The Pirates suspended him for two games for an unspecified altercation with a staffer, and then 10 days later was suspended for 10 games for throwing at the head of Reds outfielder Derek Dietrich, sparking a bench-clearing brawl that resulted in the suspensions of six players and both managers.

It probably won’t matter, but it’s worth noting that because Kela was signed before September 1, he would be eligible for the postseason if the Dodgers ended up needing him.

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