Texas Rangers’ Neftali Feliz Possibly Staying as Closer for 2011

AP Photo, Charles Reidel

Going into Spring Training, the Texas Rangers wanted to try Neftali Feliz out as a starting pitcher. Last season, he had a record 40 saves and instead of leaving him in a role he’s comfortable with and can succeed in for sure – where the Rangers might actually need him at some point in time this season rather in the starting position – they wanted to stretch him out.

We reported two days ago that Feliz wanted to remain as closer. He felt more comfortable in this position but would move to starting pitcher if the Rangers wanted him to and if that’s what was best for the team. Such a sweet 22-year-old Rookie of the Year!

Well, now, the Rangers are placing him in the closer position for today’s exhibition Cactus League game. This doesn’t mean that they don’t want him to start, but it does show the possibility of them wanting him to close for the 2011 MLB season. Keeping Feliz stretched out isn’t just so the young closer can see if he has what it takes to start but also so he can work on those offspeed pitches that he hasn’t gotten down so well.

If he isn’t starting and he is closing, the concept behind this is that Feliz will be even more aggressive and dominate a game even more than he last year in those last innings by improving other pitches to assist his fastball, which is usually in the triple digits.

Originally, Feliz was to start Wednesday’s Cactus League game, but now, Wednesday against the Oakland Athletics, RHP Feliz will close – still pitching three innings – and “Dutch Oven” RHP Derek Holland will start.

If you ask me, I think Feliz has what it takes to become a starting pitcher but maybe just not yet. In addition, the Rangers need him in the bullpen. After having such a successful 2010 year as closer, why move him? Although a final decision has not been made as of yet regarding Nefty, I think he’s going to remain the closer for the defending AL champions.

What do you guys think – should the Rangers leave Feliz as the closer where he comfortably has more potential and can shut guys down virtually instantly or should they take the risk of moving him from 60-100 innings to 180-200 where his velocity could lack? Sound off in the comments below! I’d love to hear from you!

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Topics: Cactus League, Derek Holland, Neftali Feliz, Rangers, Spring Training, Texas Rangers

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