Tag:Neftali Feliz
Posted on: April 26, 2011 10:21 pm

Which closers are succeeding?

StreetBy Evan Brunell

What position in baseball has the worst job security?

Has to be closers, right? Tuesday, Dodgers GM Ned Colletti said that Jonathan Broxton had lost his grip on the job. While manager Don Mattingly later disputed that, it's clear that Broxton is on extremely thin ice. Joe Nathan, Matt Thornton, Fernando Rodney and Ryan Franklin have already lost their jobs while John Axford, Brian Fuentes, Joakim Soria and Brian Wilson have their hands full trying to reduce their ERA.

But enough about flailing closers, how about acknowledging the ones off to tremendous starts so far?

Entering Wednesday's games, Huston Street led all of baseball with eight saves against a scant 1.88 ERA for the surging Rockies. Street has 157 career saves already, although he hasn't been a full-time closer the entirety of his seven-season career. The 27-year-old has been a bit lucky to start the year, but his talent is for real.

Meanwhile, the ageless Mariano Rivera tops the AL leaderboard with seven saves, although his ERA currently would mark his highest since 2007. This is a 2.53 ERA we're talking about here. 

In Atlanta, Craig Kimbrel has ran away with the job after opening up in a presumed platoon with Johnny Venters. Kimbrel's ERA is a spotless 0.96, and he's also struck out 13.5 batters per nine. Surprisingly that isn't even the highest for a closer as New York's Francisco Rodriguez has struck out a staggering 13 in 7.2 innings. Joining Kimbrel with ERA's under 1.00 is San Diego's Heath Bell with a 0.90 mark and five saves. Bell figures to be a hot commodity on the trade market this summer, although it's no guarantee San Diego will move him.

Tied with Kimbrel for six saves include Pittsburgh's Joel Hanrahan, Cleveland's Chris Perez, Florida's Leo Nunez and Oakland's Brian Fuentes. Of those, only Fuentes doesn't have a firm hold on the job, as his history indicates he's not an elite closer. That's reflected in his 4.06 ERA on the year thus far and should lose his job once Andrew Bailey returns and proves ready to assume his role.

Two other closers in Jose Contreras and Neftali Feliz with strong starts to the season only recently hit the disabled list. Of the other strong starters, Kyle Farnsworth for Tampa Bay jumps out. Here's a pitcher who's always had tremendous stuff but has been a basketcase. He seems to have become a new pitcher over the last couple years, though, and he's certainly enjoying life as a Ray with five saves and a 1.23 ERA. Still, it feels as if he's due for a blowup any time now.

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Posted on: April 24, 2011 3:23 pm
Edited on: April 24, 2011 3:27 pm

Without Feliz, Rangers have closer question


By C. Trent Rosecrans

The Rangers headed into the 2011 season fully invested in Neftali Feliz as their closer, trading Frank Francisco in the offseason and moving Alexi Ogando into the rotation to start the spring.

That left a team formerly flush with potential closers in a bind when Feliz was put on the disabled list on Saturday.

In Saturday's save situation, Ron Washington turned to veteran lefty Darren Oliver (above, middle) to get the last three outs against the Royals.

"We've got no bona fide closer right now," Washington said on Saturday, according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. "It's that simple."

Feliz was. WIth a 1.08 ERA in nine outings with six strikeouts in 8 1/3 innings, Feliz was a prefect 5 for 5 in save situations this season.

Now, Washington could go with Oliver, Darren O'Day or Arthur Rhodes to close out games. Of the trio, Rhodes has the most closing experience with 32 career saves, the last coming with the Marlins in 2008. The most he's had in one season is nine with Oakland in 2004. 

The right-handed O'Day (above, left) had two saves for the Rangers in 2009, the only two of his career.

Oliver's save on Saturday was the fourth of his career. He had one last season and two as a rookie for the Rangers in 1994. He also set a record on Saturday, becoming the oldest Ranger to record a save. Goose Gossage had one at 40 years, 18 days in 1991. Oliver is 40 years, 199 days. But that record may not last long, Rhodes is 41.

"I figured if you're 40 years old, you're probably going to be in a lot of history books," Oliver told Anthony Andro of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. "This is probably just one of them. Just think if Arthur saves it tomorrow, he'll be the oldest one."

Ogando, 27, looked like a closer in waiting last season, pitching 44 games out of the bullpen. He had a 1.30 ERA and 39 strikeouts in 41 2/3 innings pitch. While the Rangers' toying with Feliz in the rotation drew many of the headlines in the spring, Ogando quietly won the fifth starter's spot and has been excellent. In four starts this season, he's 3-0 with a 2.13 ERA, picking up the victory against the Royals on Saturday.

Francisco saved 25 games for the Rangers in 2009 and two last season before being supplanted by Feliz. The Rangers sent him to Toronto in exchange for Mike Napoli, who is trying to help fill the offensive void left by Josh Hamilton. Since Hamilton was injured on April 12, Napoli has started five games, with hits in his last three, including a homer on Saturday. He's caught twice, played first twice and served as the DH on Saturday.

Either Francisco or Ogando would have given the Rangers something the trio of Rhodes, O'Day and Oliver do not -- a no-doubt, go-to guy in the ninth inning. 

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Posted on: April 23, 2011 4:18 pm
Edited on: April 23, 2011 6:11 pm

Feliz to DL with shoulder inflammation

By Matt Snyder

Rangers closer and 2010 AL Rookie of the Year Neftali Feliz has been placed on the 15-day disabled list with inflammation in his right rotator cuff, the Rangers announced Saturday afternoon. The move is retroactive to Thursday, so Feliz will be eligible to be activated Friday, May 6. This is the first DL stint of Feliz's young career.

While the Rangers don't think the injury is serious, they are being careful with their prized youngster.

"If this was somebody older, who had dealt with this before, we might just give him a few days off," general manager Jon Daniels said. "But we want to be extra cautious." (Sports Day DFW )

Feliz, 22,  has only pitched once since April 15, but when he has thrown this season, he's been nearly untouchable. Again. Through eight outings, Feliz has a 1.08 ERA, 1.08 WHIP and six strikeouts in 8 2/3 innings. He's converted all five of his save chances.

As a corresponding move, Cody Eppley has been summoned from Triple-A. Darren Oliver, Darren O'Day and Arthur Rhodes are the most likely to get save opportunities with Feliz on the shelf.

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Category: MLB
Posted on: March 25, 2011 4:45 pm
Edited on: March 25, 2011 4:58 pm

Hunter could be out 6 weeks

By C. Trent Rosecrans

Tommy HunterThe day after being naming Tommy Hunter to the Rangers' starting rotation and answering the great Neftali Feliz closer/starter argument, Texas says Hunter could miss as much as six weeks with a right groin strain.

Hunter will return to Texas for blood-platelet injection, Jeff Wilson of the Ft. Worth Star-Telegram tweets. Hunter left Thursday's game against Cincinnati in the third inning with the groin injury.

Even with Hunter out, the Rangers won't change their plans for Feliz to anchor the bullpen. Instead, Michael Kirkman and Dave Bush are the candidates to replace Hunter.

Kirkman, 24, has made one start this spring and appeared in four games, going 0-1 with a 5.56 ERA in 11 1/3 innings. He's struck out nine and walked three, while allowing 13 runs (seven earned) on 15 hits.

Bush, like Kirkman, has started one game and appeared in four this spring. Bush has struck out six and walked four in 13 innings. He's given up 13 hits and eight runs (seven earned). The 31-year-old Bush was 8-13 with a 4.54 ERA for the Brewers last season in 31 starts.

Bush singed a minor-league contract and has an out in his contract if he's not on the team's 40-man roster by Sunday. That could be enough to give him the edge over Kirkman for the final spot in the Rangers' rotation.

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Posted on: March 24, 2011 2:44 pm
Edited on: March 24, 2011 5:29 pm

Feliz to close, Rangers round out rotation

By Matt Snyder

One of the spring's more talked-about storylines has reportedly come to a conclusion. The 2010 Rookie of the Year Neftali Feliz will remain the team's closer, while Matt Harrison, Derek Holland and Tommy Hunter will fill the final three rotation spots behind C.J. Wilson and Colby Lewis. (MLB.com via Twitter )

With Feliz out of the picture, the three choices aren't very surprising. The only other pitcher who could legitimately claim to have better stuff would be Michael Kirkman, but he could benefit from some more time in the minors before getting the call. It's a nice luxury for the Rangers to have so many viable options.

The majority of the discussion when it came to the last couple slots was whether Feliz should remain the closer or become a starting pitcher. Many project him as having the ability of a front-line ace. If that's going to happen, why not now? Those supporting a move to the rotation would tell you it's much more valuable for a team to get 150-200 innings out of its best pitcher than 70-80. On the flip-side, the Rangers don't have any other viable options at closer, but did have plenty of capable starting pitchers -- though not as good as Feliz.

Ultimately, Ron Washington and his staff must have felt it was best to leave the lock-down guy at the end of the line and see what they can get out of the young arms.

Hunter is only 24 and went 13-4 with a 3.73 ERA and 1.24 WHIP last season. Holland is also only 24. He hasn't had success at the major-league level yet, but dominated the minors. Harrison would seem the biggest question mark of the three, but has had a good spring.

UPDATE: Right on cue, Hunter went down with a strained groin . So the Rangers still don't have a set rotation.

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Posted on: March 18, 2011 2:58 pm

Rangers' rotation shuffle shaking out

By Matt Snyder

According to pitching coach Mike Maddux, the Rangers have settled on the pitchers to fill the third and fourth spots in their starting rotation, behind C.J. Wilson and Colby Lewis.

Though it was not official, Maddux told a radio show that Tommy Hunter and Matt Harrison were close to being given the nod and that "the other spot is going to come down to the last couple weeks." (ESPN Dallas )

That last spot has a whole six guys still in the mix. Obviously, if management wants Neftali Feliz in the rotation, that's his spot. If not, the Rangers are deciding between Derek Holland, Michael Kirkman, Dave Bush, Brett Tomko and Alexi Ogando.

The smart money there is on Holland, though Kirkman is an up-and-coming prospect and Bush has the wily veteran factor. It just depends on which direction the Rangers want to go. That spot is probably a temp gig anyway, with Brandon Webb making progress and a sure bet to join the fray at some point during the first half of the season.

Hunter, 24, has an 8.31 ERA this spring, but has struck out 10 guys and only walked one. He was 13-4 last season with a 3.73 ERA in 128 innings.

Harrison, 25, has only allowed five hits and one earned run in nine spring innings (1.00 ERA). He had a 4.71 ERA in 37 appearances last season -- only six of which were starts. He was 1-1 with a 5.29 ERA as a starter.

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Posted on: March 17, 2011 11:55 am

Expect Neftali Feliz to close

FelizThe Rangers will likely keep Neftali Feliz as closer, reports USA TODAY's Bob Nightengale.

The Rangers are concerned about their ability to replace Feliz in the closer's role this season, with manager Ron Washington and team CEO Nolan Ryan also indicating concern.

"Who do we have in our bullpen that’s closed ballgames down?" Washington asked, according to ESPN Dallas. "We ain’t talking about 'might be able to.' This ain’t about 'might be able to close a ballgame down.' We need somebody that’s bona fide to close ballgames down. But, like I said, if we need to stay in-house, we’ll figure that out."

Internally, the team has Mark Lowe and Alexi Ogando as options for the closer's role, although Ogando is also being considered for the rotation. There hasn't been any thought toward Arthur Rhodes or Darren Oliver filling the closer's spot, so unless the team is comfortable with going a reliever with no closing history, Feliz will be the man.


Feliz has been stretched out all spring training and recently said he wants to start, a change from indicating he would prefer to remain as closer. However, given the club's obvious concern about who would replace Feliz as closer, it's clear an announcement switching Feliz back to the role that earned him the AL Rookie of the Year Award last season will come soon.

But Feliz's future remains in the rotation, as Nightengale expects the right-hander to start in 2012, adding that there will be a lot of closers on the free-agent market this offseason. Given Texas' resources, the club has a reasonable expectation of being able to sign one of these closers. Heath Bell, Jonathan Broxton, Matt Capps, Francisco Cordero, Frank Francisco, Ryan Franklin, Brad Lidge, Joe Nathan, Jonathan Papelbon, Francisco Rodriguez, Rafael Soriano, Koji Uehara and Jose Valverde could all hit the market. That's a lot of closers, and Texas certainly can expect to walk away with one of those names.

Given Feliz's talent and success so far in spring training, one could argue the move should be made now to get a possible ace in the rotation. But the Rangers clearly are concerned about filling the closer's role to the point where they would prefer Feliz to close. The club doesn't have fantastic arms for the rotation, but they have enough depth that it's certainly defensible to put Feliz into the closer's role again. But Feliz's long-term role still best profiles as a starter.

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Category: MLB
Posted on: March 16, 2011 11:02 am
Edited on: March 16, 2011 12:34 pm

Pepper: Sign spring's end is near

By Matt Snyder

How can you best tell when spring is winding down and the real Major League Baseball season is nearing? Well, a few things. The snow finally stops falling. I guess, though this year who really knows. It's liable to snow at some places into May at this rate. Another good sign is watching the NCAA basketball tournament on CBS (shameless plug alert). How about baseball teams starting to name -- or get close to naming -- a fifth starting pitcher? That's a pretty good one, and it's happening in a lot of different places right now.

We've already passed along that Mark Rogers has been demoted, which leaves Wily Peralta the Brewers' likely five . We've also noted Michael Pineda being in Seattle's driver's seat as well. But there are plenty more.

Esmil Rogers looks like he's opening up a lead over John Maine and Greg Reynolds for the Rockies, after working five innings Tuesday and only facing the minimum 15 batters. (Denver Post )

Brandon McCarthy has gotten in the good graces of manager Bob Geren for being "impressive" and "consistent" in looking to win the A's fifth starting job behind a pretty underrated top four of Trevor Cahill, Brett Anderson, Dallas Braden and Gio Gonzalez. (San Francisco Chronicle )

Ever since Adam Wainwright went down with injury and the Cardinals said they were going to look internally, Kyle McClellan has been the front-runner to take the remaining spot. And every outing since then, he's gotten rave reviews and been tabbed as the front-runner. Thus, it would be pretty shocking if he didn't get the job. Still, the word from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch is that McClellan is merely "closer" to getting the nod.

Speaking of shocking, it would be just as shocking if Randy Wells doesn't win one of the Cubs' two remaining rotation slots. He's throwing well this spring and has the past experience. It also appears that former first-round pick Andrew Cashner is putting some distance between himself and the rest of the field as well. We'll get back to Cashner in a second. (MLB.com )

Of course, there is one team a bit behind the curve here. The Texas Rangers, your defending American League champs, still have a whopping seven guys in the mix for two spots. If a decision is made to start Neftali Feliz, one that seems increasingly likely with each passing day, that narrows the field to six guys for one spot. Those six: Derek Holland, Matt Harrison, Michael Kirkman, Alexi Ogando, Dave Bush and Eric Hurley. (Fort Worth Star-Telegram )

THE PROFESSOR: Of the two nicknames you see listed for Greg Maddux on baseball-reference.com, I always preferred "the Professor," even though it's nowhere near mainstream. He was so much more cerebral than his opposition, seemingly getting guys out just with his mind. Thus, it's only fitting he's passing along some knowledge to Cashner in Cubs camp as a special assistant. His latest nugget? "Walks are overrated." It's not surprising, coming from a guy who probably never walked someone by accident in his prime. Those who remember watching him in the mid-90s are nodding in agreement. You could feel when Maddux was walking someone on purpose; otherwise it didn't happen. Oh, and if Maddux's wisdom isn't enough, Kerry Wood has also taken Cashner under his wing. (Chicago Tribune )

RUSSELL THE MUSCLE: Hey, someone has to fill the void left by Mark Reynolds -- both in terms of power and strikeouts. Despite his lackluster defense -- which is reportedly a concern for manager Kirk Gibson -- Russell Branyan is turning heads by killing the ball this spring, to the tune of a 1.274 OPS. And don't scoff. While Branyan has a bad batting average and strikeout issues, his career OPS-plus is 115 and he averages 31 home runs over the course of 162 games. He need only hold off Juan Miranda and once-big prospect Brandon Allen. (MLB.com )

NO WORRIES: Clayton Kershaw was torched Tuesday by the Rangers, but Dodgers manager Don Mattingly isn't worried about his likely ace. Nor should he be, considering it's only the spring and Kershaw entered the game with a 0.00 ERA through 11 1/3 innings. (Los Angeles Times )

SWITCHBACK: Prior to the ALDS last year, the rules for the dreaded catwalk at Tropicana Field were altered, but now those rules are reverting back to where they were in the regular season of 2010. Check out the complete list on St. Petersburg Times .

GETTING GRADY BACK: Sunday could be the day. Grady Sizemore hasn't seen game action in about 10 months, but reportedly he has a real shot to play Sunday. Obviously huge news for the Tribe. (Cleveland.com )

KEEPING DICE-K: There's been a lot of talk about the Red Sox trading Daisuke Matsuzaka of late. Peter Abraham of the Boston Globe makes a good case to fans that Dice-K is actually a pretty average major-league pitcher and that, as the fifth starter, that's really all the team needs. Put the absurd salary aside and just enjoy the good Red Sox team, he pleads. I tend to agree. (Boston Globe )

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