After being mostly a starting pitcher in the Minors, Feliz was converted to a relief pitcher upon his Major League arrival in 2009, but the transition appeared smooth for him as he developed into one of the better closers in the game in 2010 and 2011. But for the 2012 season, the Rangers went out and signed Joe Nathan to be their closer as they shifted Feliz back into a starting pitching role. This transition back to a starting pitcher didn’t end well as not only were the results not spectacular but Feliz also suffered a serious arm injury that required Tommy John surgery. When Feliz rejoined the Rangers in late 2013, they changed his role yet again and put him back in the bullpen. But ever since coming back from the procedure, Feliz’ velocity has been down significantly from where it was pre-Tommy John when he worked as a relief pitcher. In his hey day, Feliz averaged 96.3 MPH with his fastball. But since his return up through this season, he has been clocking in around 93.5 MPH with his heater and just not seeing the same results that he had back in 2010-11.
This past Saturday, Neftali Feliz blew the save and took the loss for the Rangers against the Indians and I had this to say about him:
“Rough go for Feliz who is not pitching very well this season and now has a 5.51 ERA, 1.71 WHIP, and is 6 for 9 in save opportunities. It’s probably not quite time for a change in the Rangers bullpen yet, but one more game like this could do the trick.”
The following day, the Rangers had another late inning lead hosting the Indians as they were up 4-1 in the bottom of the 8th inning. With a save situation still standing, Feliz got up in the Rangers bullpen to warm up. But then oddly, while the game was still a 3-run differential with the save opportunity still on its way, Feliz sat down in the bullpen and Shawn Tolleson began to get loose. The Rangers went on to tack on an insurance run in the inning to take away any potential save opportunity to begin the 9th inning and Tolleson came on to work a clean frame, allowing one hit and striking out two. Though Tolleson technically didn’t take a save away from Feliz, it was certainly an interesting sequence of events and has to have some meaning behind it.
Here is what else I said this past Saturday after Feliz blew the save and took the loss:
“The candidates to take over would be Shawn Tolleson and Keone Kela. Tolleson has been working the 8th inning in front of Feliz, and although his 3.86 ERA isn’t great, his 22 K/3 BB in 16.1 IP is dazzling. The 22-year old rookie Kela owns a 2.55 ERA and has been working the 7th inning and is considered the closer of the future, but he had a fart of a game himself. I would put Tolleson ahead of Kela for next in line due to Tolleson’s superb K/BB ratio and because of Kela’s lack of experience in the Majors. I give permission to stash Tolleson right meow.”
At the very least, Feliz could be looking at some sort of possible injury that he dealt with while getting loose on Sunday. Or in the most extreme of situations, one that would impact the fantasy baseball community immensely, Feliz could be out as the team’s closer due to his poor performance up to this point. And Rangers manager Jeff Bannister went on to say there are no defined roles in the bullpen at the moment to possibly shut down any suspicion of a Feliz injury, but to confirm that there could be an imminent changing of the guard.
Well, hopefully on Saturday evening you were able to get that waiver claim in for Tolleson like I suggested, especially if you are a Feliz owner. You really should listen to me! Although it is entirely possible that Kela gets a chance, so he would not be a terrible grab either for those speculating on saves.