When last we saw Neftali Feliz on the mound for the Texas Rangers, he was in the process of a truly rough outing on April 19th. Having entered the same with one out in the eighth inning of a 10-7 game, Feliz allowed a two run single to cut the lead to 10-9 before escaping the inning. Then, in the ninth, Feliz allowed two more runs to hand the Rangers an 11-10 loss.
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Since then, Feliz has nominally been available, but has yet to actually make an appearance. Even if he is not coming in during a save situation, managers usually find a way to get their closer into a game to keep them fresh. Instead, Feliz has completely disappeared from the Rangers bullpen.
This is definitely a different situation for someone in the closer role. In fact, it may speak to Jeff Banister‘s thought process that Feliz has not been in a game since then. While he has publicly stated that Neftali Feliz is the closer of the Texas Rangers, his actions seem to indicate otherwise. After all, how often does a closer go without making an appearance for a week at a time?
Such a move would seem to indicate a lack of confidence in Feliz on the part of Banister. Considering that Feliz has struggled at the start of the year, producing a 6.00 ERA, a 2.000 WHiP and has walked four in his six innings of work, that lack of confidence may be warranted. Likewise, his fastball velocity has dropped by approximately three miles per hour, as he is sitting in the mid 90’s with his four seamer.
Yes, Neftali Feliz had Tommy John surgery, but that was back in 2012. His 2014 season was fairly strong, as he posted a 1.99 ERA and a 0.979 WHiP, even with his diminished velocity, so he did come back relatively well. However, the returns this season have not been nearly as promising.
With the struggles that the Texas Rangers have had, they cannot afford to be giving away games in the ninth inning. Feliz, however, has not been that shutdown closer that he had been in the past, prior to his ill fated time in the starting rotation. While the days of Feliz as a starter are long in the past, the time may be coming to look at him as something other than as a closer.
It is not as though Banister does not have potential options. Shawn Tolleson and Roman Mendez have bee solid this season, and may be primed to have a more prominent role in for the Rangers. Tolleson, in particular, has been stellar, giving up three hits and one run in 7.1 innings while striking out eleven. With these options, the Rangers do not necessarily need to stay with their struggling closer.
It may be early in the season to think about a possible change at the closer position for the Texas Rangers, but given Feliz’ struggles, a change may be required. If nothing else, his leash is getting shorter by the outing, and, given his lack of work, Feliz’ time may be just about over.