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Ex-Rays coach Derek Shelton has ‘fun’ first day as Pirates manager

The former Rays’ hitting coach named Keona Kela as Pittsburgh’s closer after the first workout.
FILE —This file photo from Dec. 4, 2019 shows Derek Shelton as he takes questions during a news conference where he was introduced as the new manager of the Pittsburgh Pirates baseball team in Pittsburgh. The Pirates will have a fresh look in 2020, from their new alternate road uniforms to a totally overhauled front office. Most of the faces on the field, however, haven't changed much from the group that finished last in the NL Central. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic, File) [KEITH SRAKOCIC  |  AP]
FILE —This file photo from Dec. 4, 2019 shows Derek Shelton as he takes questions during a news conference where he was introduced as the new manager of the Pittsburgh Pirates baseball team in Pittsburgh. The Pirates will have a fresh look in 2020, from their new alternate road uniforms to a totally overhauled front office. Most of the faces on the field, however, haven't changed much from the group that finished last in the NL Central. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic, File) [KEITH SRAKOCIC | AP]
Published Feb. 12

BRADENTON — On his first day as the Pittsburgh Pirates manager, Derek Shelton already had a special visitor.

Shelton’s father, Ron, joined him on the field for his first workout of spring training, watching bits and pieces of the game they love.

“I think my dad is probably more excited than I am,” Shelton joked.

Shelton’s father coached high school baseball for more than 20 years.

“It’s cool to be able to share that (moment),” said Shelton, a former hitting coach for the Rays. "Any time you can share experiences with your family, especially your father, it makes it kind of a cool bonding moment.”

Shelton bounced around Pirate City, taking it all in through the lenses of a rookie manager.

“I think it’s a little bit emotional," he said after the workout. "You spend a lot of time throughout your career and you wait for a day like this and an organization like this. It was a pretty special day.”

And while Shelton is getting the lay of the land, he already has some ideas.

“I think it’s more about relationship building and they know I’m here and what our expectations are," he said. "We’re coming in with a blank thought process. But specific (players) to certain spots, I have a really good idea of where guys are going to be.”

And it’s why he named Keona Kela as his closer following Wednesday’s workout. Kela, 26, allowed 19 hits and 11 walks in 29⅔ last season with the Pirates.

“Kela’s going to be the guy at the end of the game,” Shelton told reporters Wednesday. “He and I talked about it and that was my expectation all along. He’s put himself in a position where he deserves to do that with his stuff. I’m excited for him to relish in that role.”

Contact Mari Faiello at mfaiello@tampabay.com. Follow @faiello_mari.

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