As if there weren’t already enough concerns in the bullpen for the Texas Rangers, now they have lost their star closer, Neftali Feliz.
“We’ve got no bona fide closer right now,” manager Ron Washington said. “It’s that simple. We’re not going to go run and hide.”
That is so true. With Feliz on the 15-day disabled list due to inflammation in his right shoulder. The move came prior to tonight’s game against the Kansas City Royals in Arlington where the Rangers will look to Alexi Ogando to get things done. However, Thursday was the last day Feliz pitched so the move was retroactive to then.
During spring training, Feliz supposedly felt a little soreness but nothing out of the ordinary so he kept pitching – vying for a spot in the starting rotation, which he ended up not being able to secure because the need for him was too great in the bullpen.
It wasn’t until last weekend when the team was in New York – where it was cold – that Feliz mentioned something about the soreness. Wednesday, he went out on the mound to pitch, but not for a save, against the Los Angeles Angels where while he walked three batters in a row, he never allowed a run. The tightness in his shoulder was still there the next day.
“If he was 33 instead of 23 we may treat it a little differently, but given his age and what he means to the club, we’re going to play this one on the safe side, relatively conservatively,” Daniels said. “We’re doing this to be cautious. We’re trying to be proactive and get all of the soreness out of there. Obviously you never know until he’s back, but we don’t expect it to be an issue.”
This season he had five chances to get saves and did so with all five. In eight appearances, he has a 1.08 ERA and his opponents only have a hitting average of .138 against the flame-throwing closer. Last year, he set a record for rookies in the Mjaor Leagues by securing 40 saves.
As Feliz’s replacement in the bullpen, the Rangers purchased right-hander Cody Eppley’s contract from AAA Round Rock. He was the 2010 Minor League Reliever of the Year and will be in Arlington for Saturday night’s game against the Royals. For Round Rock in 2011, he has pitched 8.1 scoreless innings and is 1-0. He’s been given three save opportunies and he has taken all three.
Hopefully, he can take Feliz’s spot as closer and perform well in that position because I don’t have too much faith in the guys in the bullpen. Anyone can do it if they put their mind to it, but no one is as good as Nefty. Looking at experience, Arthur Rhodes comes into play with 32 saves for his career with Darren Oliver and O’Day both likely to get some save opportunities as well. However, the entire bullpen has struggled so far this season and it’s hard to pull every ounce of your faith in them when you don’t have a solid closer to take over the ninth inning that can make sure a run isn’t scored.