Reigning Rookie of the Year Neftali Feliz would rather be a closer than a starter, if the choice was left up to him.
"I'm comfortable there and I've done it before at this level and I know what it takes," Feliz said with Julio Borbon acting as an interpreter. "What I went through last year made me feel more comfortable with the role. I experienced it at a very high level. But if I start, I'll get myself into a routine and get comfortable with it again. If I start, I'm not going to hold back or not go at it all the way. I'm going to do what I do."(via Dallas Morning News )
He reportedly told Rangers president Nolan Ryan that sentiment Sunday.
The situation should make decisions easier for the Rangers in spring training, but creates a bit of a quandry.
First of all, many front office types would much rather have a stud pitcher with an arm like Feliz's in the rotation. Most sabermatricians agree. It's simple mathematics, since you're talking about getting 200-plus innings from a starter versus about 70 from a closer. So maybe the Rangers still want him in the rotation and will try to convince him a move is best for the team.
On the other hand, the Rangers have a logjam of starters competing for the rotation spots. I outlined the possible options and who could factor in last week, but a C.J. Wilson, Colby Lewis, Brandon Webb, Michael Kirkman and Derek Holland rotation come August could actually be quite stout -- and that leaves Matt Harrison and Tommy Hunter in the cold. So you can easily argue Feliz at closer -- even if for the short-term -- does the most for the team.
Putting the innings-pitched argument aside, having a lock-down closer is quite the luxury for managers. Just ask Joe Torre, who never tried to move Mariano Rivera from the back-end of his 'pen to the rotation.
Feliz has the potential to be the best closer in baseball. He saved 40 games last season, racking up 71 strikeouts in 69 1/3 innings with a 2.73 ERA and sparkling 0.88 WHIP. He can hit triple digits on the radar gun and is still only 22.
Considering all the circumstances at hand, the Rangers should probably just keep him in the bullpen for at least this season. I expect an announcement along those lines will be coming quite soon.
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