Coming into 2014 Spring Training, it was almost assumed that Neftali Feliz would return to the closer’s role that made him famous in 2010 and 2011.
About a week and a half after pitchers and catchers reported, and 10 games into the Cactus League schedule, that picture is increasingly less clear. Not only does it look like Neftali Feliz still needs work on his mechanics, but now it’s looking like Joakim Soria is taking the lead in the closer race.
Gerry Fraley spoke with manager Ron Washington, and the skipper would like to see Feliz start throwing like he did in those World Series years, where his fastball would top out at 103 MPH and average 96-98 MPH. This Spring, Feliz’ top fastball has come in at 92 MPH. It hasn’t been consistent, and that’s the one thing that Washington would like to see out of his potential closer: not necessarily the blazing triple digit fastball, but definitely something higher than 92 MPH and on a regular basis.
The 25-year old will be entering his first full season coming back from Tommy John surgery, and while Washington understands that, he also points out that Feliz doesn’t have the experience or convenience of being able to ease into things right now.
“When you’ve been doing it for eight or nine years at the end of a bullpen, we’ll let you kick it in when you’re ready to kick it in because we know that you will kick in it. This guy hasn’t pitched in two years. I’d like to see it get better sooner than later.”
Feliz has struggled so far in the Cactus League, pitching inconsistently in four games, giving up two runs and striking out only one. Joakim Soria, on the other hand, has looked dominant in his three games, giving up his first two hits against the Reds on Monday, while not giving up any runs.
Tags: Texas Rangers