Scheppers Needs MRI: Opportunity for Keone Kela?

Tanner Scheppers has had a rough camp thus far, putting up a 12.27 ERA in 3.2 innings pitched. More troublesome than what appears to be just a small sample size is the WHIP of 3.273. In the latest example of his struggles, Scheppers gave up 3 runs on 2 hits on Saturday against the Padres. At the time I made the comment that he didn't look at all comfortable.

Today, it appears that prognosis might have been more accurate than I would have liked, as the Rangers will have Scheppers undergo an MRI on the right ankle he sprained earlier in camp. Assuming the discomfort doesn't resolve quickly -- and hopefully isn't something more serious than a simple sprain -- we could be looking at a scenario in which Scheppers begins the season on the DL.

Enter Keone Kela.

Kela, who has yet to pitch above Double-A Frisco, has had a fantastic Spring Training. In 8.1 IP, he's allowed 2 hits, two walks, and most importantly, no runs, all while striking out 10 hitters. On the Baseball-Reference opponent quality scale -- 1 being "batter is a pitcher" and 10 being MLB-quality -- his opponent quality rating stands at 7.7 for the Spring. That puts him right around facing the equivalent of Triple-A hitting.

That's a really long-winded way of saying that, should the Rangers opt to keep him around the big club to start the season, some regression is certainly to be expected. However, the smooth and easy gas he's showcased along with an effective slider-changeup combo has been impressive thus far.

The Rangers, for their part, still say they're undecided about where Kela will start the season. However, if Scheppers is on the DL to start 2015, coupled with the overall ineffectiveness of Phil Klein so far in Spring Training, Kela may be the best option in the short-term, even accounting for some regression.

Jon Edwards and Roman Mendez are two other options that, along with Kela, had been thought to be in competition for two bullpen spots. With the news of Tanner Scheppers still having problems with a sprained ankle, I'd have to imagine that the Rangers will play it conservatively, give him a chance to get healthy and get his legs back under him, and then let the Major League results determine who stays and who goes in the Texas bullpen.

For now, it would appear that Kela may just get an opportunity to stick in the Texas Rangers bullpen if he can continue pitching well when the games start counting.