Tag:Neftali Feliz
Posted on: January 11, 2011 10:17 am

Rangers eye Thome, plan rotation

Adrian Beltre was always the first part of Plan B for the Rangers.

But Jim Thome was always Plan B, Part II, after Cliff Lee turned down Texas to return to Philadelphia.

And Plan B, Part III will see Neftali Feliz and Alexi Ogando in a spring training audition for a spot in the starting rotation.

The Rangers have strong interest in Thome, as has been reported elsewhere. But Thome has strong emotional ties to the Twins, the team he played for in 2010, and the Rangers have some concern that Thome will choose to return to Minnesota, if that option is available to him.

It's not expected that Thome would be an everyday player with either team. In Texas, he would be a part-time designated hitter, with Michael Young expected to get most of the at-bats at DH. The same would be true in Minnesota, where, where the return of Justin Morneau from a concussion would shift Michael Cuddyer back to the outfield and put Thome back in the part-time role he had at the start of 2010.

While the Rangers are pursuing Thome, it's not at all certain that they would go after another DH type if Thome goes to the Twins instead.

Remember, when the Rangers lost out on Lee, they didn't go after another starting pitcher.

Texas had talks with the Royals about Zack Greinke and talks with the Rays about Matt Garza, but in both cases decided that the price would be far too high in terms of prospects.

Instead, the Rangers plan to approach their rotation the same way they did last year, by looking at two relievers for one starting spot. It was Feliz and C.J. Wilson last year, and the Rangers chose right, as Wilson went on to 15 wins and Feliz went on to become a Rookie of the Year closer.

Despite Feliz's success in the bullpen, the Rangers plan to stretch him out again this spring. Should they choose Feliz to start, Ogando could become the closer, although Frank Francisco is also available. At this point, the Rangers aren't pursuing free-agent closer Rafael Soriano.

Posted on: November 15, 2010 2:46 pm

Feliz found his niche

Way back in the early days of spring training, the Rangers were still trying to figure out how to use Neftali Feliz.

They thought he could start. They thought he could relieve.

They weren't ready to make a decision.

"Let's let the kid establish himself as a major leaguer," Rangers pitching coach Mike Maddux said that day in Surprise, Ariz. "And take it from there. You might find your niche."

Feliz found his niche.

The Rangers chose to put C.J. Wilson in the rotation and leave Feliz in the bullpen, seemingly making the right call on both pitchers. Then, after Frank Francisco failed in his first two save opportunities, manager Ron Washington quickly but "temporarily" made Feliz the closer.

The temporary assignment lasted all the way through the World Series. It's still going, and if you needed any more proof that it worked, you got it today, when Feliz was named the American League's Rookie of the Year.

The AL award hasn't been as heavily debated as the NL award this year, because almost all the big-name rookies were in the other league. But Feliz is a deserving winner, the first rookie ever with 40 saves.

And the Rangers still wonder whether he'll someday be a starter.

General manager Jon Daniels said during the postseason that Feliz will go to spring training next year as the closer. But he also pointed to other pitchers who went back and forth between the bullpen and the rotation later in their careers, pitchers like Derek Lowe and John Smoltz.

For now, though, there should be little question that Feliz is a closer, and a good one.

He found his niche.
Category: MLB
Posted on: November 15, 2010 2:04 pm
Edited on: November 15, 2010 2:09 pm

Posey, Feliz top rookies

Giants catcher Buster Posey and Rangers closer Neftali Feliz are the Rookies of the Year, as announced today by the Baseball Writers Association of America.

Posey won the National League award, beating out Braves outfielder Jason Heyward in a race that wasn't as close as expected. Posey received 20 of the 32 first-place votes. Heyward had nine, and the other three were divided between Cardinals pitcher Jaime Garcia and Marlins first baseman Gaby Sanchez.

Feliz also received 20 first-place votes to win in the American League, with Tigers center fielder Austin Jackson getting the other eight. Because there are two voters from each city in the league, the NL has four more votes than the AL.

Posted on: October 30, 2010 9:51 pm

With Lewis and AL rules, Rangers get back in WS

ARLINGTON, Texas -- This World Series looks a lot different under American League rules.

It sounds a lot different in Texas.

Or maybe it was just a lot different in Game 3 because Colby Lewis was on the mound for the Rangers.

Whatever the reason, we may now have ourselves a decent series, after Lewis and the Rangers recovered from their bad trip West and beat the Giants, 4-2, in Game 3 in Texas. The World Series stands at two games to one, still in the Giants' favor, but it looks a lot more competitive than it did when we left California.

Give credit to Lewis, the same guy who beat the Yankees twice in the AL Championship Series, including a 6-1 win in the Game 6 clincher. He's now 3-0 in four postseason starts, with a 1.71 ERA.

Lewis, who the Rangers brought back from Japan with a two-year, $5 million contract last winter, went 7 2/3 innings Saturday night, allowing solo home runs to Cody Ross and Andres Torres. He outpitched the Giants' Jonathan Sanchez, who didn't make it out of the fifth and gave up four runs.

Of course, under National League rules (which were used for the games in San Francisco), maybe Sanchez doesn't give up all those runs. Think about what happened in the second inning Saturday.

Sanchez allowed a leadoff double to Nelson Cruz, but he had two out with Cruz at third base. He walked eighth-place hitter Bengie Molina, which in an NL game would have brought up the pitcher and likely the third out.

In Game 3, with AL rules in effect, walking Molina brought up first baseman Mitch Moreland. And Moreland, after fouling off four straight two-strike pitches, rocketed a ball into the right-field seats for a three-run home run.

A Josh Hamilton home run made it 4-0 in the fifth, and then the Rangers had to survive a trip to their bullpen in the eighth and ninth. Darren O'Day, who served up Juan Uribe's home run in Game 1, retired Buster Posey with a runner on base and two out Saturday.

That brought Rangers closer Neftali Feliz into the World Series for the first time.

Posted on: September 15, 2010 2:07 pm

And in 2011, interleague play will help the . . .

As it turns out, no one is making the 2010 playoffs because of interleague play.

Two of the three American League teams that did the best against the National League (the Red Sox and White Sox) won't make the playoffs at all, and the third (the Rangers) was the dominant team in the AL West, in-league and out-of-league.

The only NL team that truly excelled in interleague was the Mets, and they're not making the playoffs, either.

Still, there's no doubt that the interleague system is flawed, and that every year, some teams get easier interleague schedules (and thus, easier overall schedules) than other teams in the same division (or other teams fighting for the same wild-card spot).

So, now that baseball has released the 2011 schedule, it's worth taking an early look at how interleague play may be flawed next year:

First off, there don't seem to be as many disparities as there were in the 2010 schedule, which had the Red Sox playing four of their six interleague series against playoff teams from the previous year, while the Rays played none of their six. As it turned out, the Red Sox still outdid the Rays in interleague, 13-5 to 7-11.

Second, it appears that the 2011 schedule is somewhat truer to the original division vs. division concept. The rough matchups for 2011 have the AL East playing the NL Central, the AL Central playing the NL West and the AL West playing the NL East.

As always, those matchups don't hold up completely, both because of the desire to preserve geographical matchups (Yankees vs. Mets, Twins vs. Brewers, etc.) and because one league has 16 teams and the other has 14. So you still have out-of-the-blue series like Rockies at Yankees (while the Yankees play only three of the six NL Central teams). But there don't seem to be nearly as many of them.

So who comes off best and who comes off worst? It's subject to change, of course, because teams that make the playoffs this year may be bad next May and June, or vice versa, but here goes:

Toughest interleague schedule for an AL team: the Mariners, who play four of their six series against current NL playoff teams. They have their usual home-and-home with the Padres, and they're also one of the two AL West teams that will play both the Phillies and the Braves (the Rangers are the other).

Easiest interleague schedule for an AL team: the White Sox, who play none of their six series against current playoff teams (and only one, against the Rockies, against a team that even has a chance at making the playoffs this year).

Biggest disparity within an AL division: the East, where the Blue Jays (without a geographical rival) draw the top two teams in the NL East (Phillies and Braves) and the top two in the Central (Reds, Cardinals). Meanwhile, the Yankees and Rays avoid both the Phillies and Braves, and instead get rivalry series against the Mets and Marlins.

Toughest interleague schedule for an NL team: the Brewers, who will get three of the four AL playoff teams (Twins, Yankees, Rays), plus an extra series against the Twins.

Easiest interleague schedule for an NL team: the Nationals and Pirates, the only two teams who will avoid all four AL playoff teams. Not that it will help either team.

Biggest disparity within an NL division: the Central, where not only do the Brewers have four series against playoff teams while the Pirates have none, but at the top of the division the Reds get both the Yankees and Rays while the Cardinals get the Rays but miss the Yankees.

Unusual interleague series I'd most like to see: Padres at Red Sox, but only if the Padres haven't traded Adrian Gonzalez. Is he really that well suited to hitting at Fenway Park? Two others: Rangers at Braves, with Elvis Andrus, Neftali Feliz and the others acquired in the Mark Teixeira trade finally get to Turner Field. Diamondbacks at Tigers, but only if Kirk Gibson hangs on as the Diamondbacks manager and then names Alan Trammell as his bench coach.

Interleague series I most want to avoid: Pirates at Indians. Have fun selling tickets for that one.
Posted on: April 16, 2010 9:30 pm

Nefi's the closer, and 'I think he loves it'

NEW YORK -- Two months ago, we told you the story of 21-year-old Neftali Feliz, and about how the Rangers still weren't sure whether he's a starter or reliever.

Two months later, the story has an interesting new twist -- but still no definitive answer.

The twist? After Frank Francisco's early struggles, Feliz has become the Rangers closer, at least temporarily. Two outings in, all signs are that he's good at it, and that he can handle it.

And . . .

"I think he loves it," Francisco said.

The smile on Feliz's face suggested that he does, in fact, love it. But the words coming out of his mouth, relayed through an interpreter, said that he still likes the idea of starting.

"But it's up to the team," Feliz said.

Rangers general manager Jon Daniels said the only decision the team has made is that Feliz definitely won't be put in the rotation this season. But the factors that made the Rangers consider Feliz as a long-term starter this spring are still in play, and Daniels suggested that sometime, somewhere, Feliz is going to get another shot at starting.

"On some level, we'd be doing him a disservice and us a disservice if we don't consider him at some point as a starter," Daniels said. "He's got once-in-a-long-while ability. He may never get to that point [of starting], but we're going to keep talking about it."

What the Rangers are talking about now is how Feliz transitioned so easily from pitching in the eighth inning to pitching in the ninth. Closing changes so many pitchers, but two outings in, the Rangers say they've seen no change at all in Feliz.

"I think that's the most impressive thing about Nefi is that he's so even-keeled," third baseman Michael Young said. "Some guys go out and try to over-throw in the ninth. Of course, if there's one guy in the big leagues that doesn't need to overthrow, it's him."

This week in Cleveland, Feliz's fastball was clocked as high as 102 mph.

No matter how well Feliz does, though, the Rangers say that they do plan to return Francisco to the closer job at some point. In fact, manager Ron Washington said that had the Rangers held their 2-0 lead Thursday in Cleveland, Francisco would have pitched the ninth inning. Feliz had thrown 18 pitches the night before, and Washington was hesitant to use him again.

Asked how soon Francisco could become the closer again, Washington said, "I think when we get a chance to get Frankie out there again, he'll tell us by how he does."

Francisco, who saved 25 games for the Rangers last year (in 29 opportunities), said he had no problem with Washington's quick hook this season.

"I know he had to do what's best for the team, and I thought it was the best move, because I didn't do well," he said. "They told me whenever I get my command back, I'll be there again."

For now, on most nights when the Rangers lead, Francisco will watch Feliz close.

"It's fun to watch him pitch," Francisco said. "He's you, he has a lot of talent, and an unbelievable fastball."

And, it seems, the ability and mentality to close games. He may still be a starter down the road, but he's a closer now -- and he loves it.

And the story has a new twist.
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