When I was out at Rangers' Spring Training in Surprise, Arizona, I sawNeftali Feliz
compliment a 98mph fastball with a 78mph curve. Totally buckled the knees of the forgettable Seattle Mariners' minor leaguer who struck out looking. Humiliated him.
But then Feliz hit a batter, walked a batter, gave up two bloop singles and, by the time the inning was over, surrendered four runs. He's thinking too much, I remember saying.
Problem: On that day he was auditioning as a starter. Now he's back to merely throwing as a reliever.
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Now in the role of 8th-inning setup man for closer Frankie Francisco, Feliz hit 101mph on the radar gun yesterday in an exhibition win against the Colorado Rockies. Translation: He's not ready to be a starter; he's dominant as a reliever.
With C.J. Wilson having moved into the starting rotation, Feliz will be asked to pitch the 8th and, on some days, close out games in the 9th. For now, it's the right move.
There was nothing more exciting about last season than Feliz. But let's don't rush it - and ruin it - by demaning he do too much, too soon.
There may come a day when he wins 20 games. But this season his success will be measured in what he does over 20 pitches.