Neftali Feliz making a case to be the closer
By David Cash
Feb 17, 2014; Surprise, AZ, USA; Texas Rangers pitcher Neftali Feliz during team practice at Surprise Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Surprise, Arizona – Texas Rangers pitcher Neftali Feliz looked much better today in spring training against the San Diego Padres. Feliz last pitched on March 2 against the Chicago White Sox. He looked very off during that game and he wasn’t able to get the same velocity with his fastball like he was getting when he pitched in the Dominican Winter League. Most of his pitches were in the mid 80s with a few maybe hitting 90 MPH. One of his changeups was drilled out of the park.
Now, not many of you probably follow offseason ball, but Feliz played several games in the Dominican Winter League. There he looked very sharp and was able to get his velocity up in the upper 90s. Which is exactly where he was pre-Tommy John surgery.
But, against the San Diego Padres, Feliz managed to pitch much better. This time he came in the 8th inning and managed to reclaim some of his velocity. He threw a few fastballs that were in the low 90s and was also able to mix up his pitches. Which was one thing he didn’t do during his last appearance. Feliz also did what you expect out of a closer, he got the batters to go down in order.
Feliz has altered his delivery a bit after having Tommy John surgery and he is still working to make it consistent. So that does make sense that his velocity is a bit slower. Also, Ron Washington commented on his velocity.
"“The velocity will come,” Washington said. “The key is that he throws the ball over the plate, uses his pitches and keeps his arm angle high.” (Star-Telegram – Drew Davison)"
One of the most important things for a closer, is to have his velocity, his command and a tough mind for the position. After Padres, it seems that Feliz has at least 2 of the 3. And you could probably argue he has all 3 right now. Against the Padres he was able to get the ball up to 92 MPH and I expect by the end of camp that will be back up in the high 90s. Everything so far points to the Rangers seeing the same Neftali Feliz they had back in 2011.
There is still plenty of time left in spring training. Feliz will need to continue to prove he has the tools to be the closer. Also, the door is still open for Tanner Scheppers and Joakim Soria. What ever happens, I want the Washington to break camp with the best closer, whether it is Feliz, Soria or Scheppers.
Dominican Winter Ball Dec 2013 Stats
- 10 games
- 9 2/3 innings
- 3 runs allowed
- 8 base runners
- Opponents batting average .176
- 11 strike outs
Feliz pitched some in 2013. Below is a clip from MLB.com