Neftali Feliz is preparing to be the Texas Rangers closer after a two-year hiatus of closing out games, and so far his journey back to the ninth inning has been filled with questions about his mental makeup, but more importantly, his velocity as he tries to come back from Tommy John surgery in 2012.
In Thursday's Cactus League game against the San Francisco Giants, Feliz worked a scoreless ninth inning to preserve a tie but once again failed to get his fastball out of the low-90s. He did finish the night on a 78 mph vintage Feliz slider for a strikeout, but the fastball velocity was the point of focus.
Of his nine fastballs, six were 93 or 94 mph. Still not what the Rangers hope or expect from Feliz, but better than his previous outing when he struggled to crack 92 mph. After that game, Rangers manager Ron Washington said he was hoping to see Feliz regain his velocity sooner rather than later with just more than two weeks before the season opener on March 31.
But the addition of a couple of mph on Feliz's fastball, even if it's still on the wrong side of 95 mph, is at least a tad bit promising.
“Once again, it was the same,” manager Ron Washington told reporters on Thursday night. “He’s still trying to get the velocity back. The more he throws, the stronger he will get.”