A Week After the Opener Your Texas Rangers Need a Closer

The Rangers lost three games last season when they took a lead into the ninth inning.

In this season's first week, they've already lost two.

Hence, an organization founded upon second chances (see Josh Hamilton and Ron Washington) is suddenly playing hardball accountability, yanking Frankie Francisco from the closer's job and handing the ball to 21-year-old Neftali Feliz.

Buckle up, this is going to be interesting.

Francisco has lost it. His velocity. His mound presence. His effectiveness. And after he blew two 9th-inning leads over three days, the Rangers lurched for the panic button.

He's now relegated to middle relief, with the team's most important role awarded to Feliz. Why? Because blown saves are baseball's soul-sucker. And you can't give away games, be it September or April. If the Rangers are two games out come October 1, it's going to be hard to swallow Francisco's two early blown saves.

Besides, wouldn't 5-1 sound much better than 3-3 as the Rangers head out on a 9-day road trip to Cleveland, New York and Boston that begins today at 2 p.m.?

While Francicso tries to save his career in a lesser role and veteran Darren Oliver is elevated to 8th-inning setup man, Feliz will embark on a pressure-packed journey he's probably not yet ready for psychologically or physically.

Just 21, he's got the pitches. But his electric 100 mph fastball isn't enough, so he has to trust his 75 mph curveball. On Opening Day he didn't, throwing Toronto's Vernon Wells an 0-2 fastball and surrendering a run-scoring single. Since then he's been perfect, pitching two 1-2-3 inning and striking out four of six batters. Can he mentally handle a blown save? Can he physically handle pitching on consecutive days?

Feliz may not be perfect. But at this point he's better than Francisco.

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