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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

Neftali Feliz 'not sharp' in Rangers intrasquad game

Coming in to 2014, the Texas Rangers had a notable gap at the end of the bullpen.

Joe Nathan, who had been the closer for the last two years, signed a two-year deal to go pitch the ninth for the Detroit Tigers. That left Texas with a slough of setup men who could step up into the closer role. Names like Tanner Scheppers, Robbie Ross, and even incumbent starter Alexi Ogando have been mentioned as pitchers that can close out games. The competition, however, is likely to come down to two former closers: Joakim Soria and Neftali Feliz.

Those two, along with Scheppers and Ross, will make their Spring Training debuts today against the Chicago White Sox. Ross and Scheppers, two bullpen pieces who are competing for a job as the fifth starter, will start the game. Soria will follow and Feliz after that. Feliz, according to Dallas Morning News’ Evan Grant, is behind in the competition.

Feliz was not sharp in his intrasquad game and I’m told his mechanics are still kind of out of whack. He’s not getting his arm extended enough to max out the velocity. And let’s face facts: Velocity is what Feliz is all about. The real competition for the closer’s job starts Sunday. Feliz can start to seize it or create real concerns.

At his best, which was before his Tommy John surgery in 2012, Neftali Feliz possesses a high-90s fastball that was able to top out at over 100. In the ninth inning, that’s the pitch Feliz primarily relied upon during his two years as a closer, in which he posted 40 and 32 saves. Joakim Soria, the former two-time All-Star closer for the Kansas City Royals, transitioned from a strikeout pitcher to a groundball pitcher with the addition of a cutter before undergoing his own Tommy John surgery in 2012.

They say a pitcher coming back from Tommy John surgery is better in his second full year back. The Rangers are looking to see which pitchers’ ‘better’ is a good fit for a closer.

Tags: Texas Rangers

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