Closer Neftali Feliz of the Texas Rangers pitches in the ninth inning against the Tampa Bay Rays in Game Four of the American League Division Series.
In the 1990s and early 2000s, there wasn't a more feared pitcher in the game of baseball than Pedro Martinez. And he was still a hot commodity throughout the 2000s, pulling a Roger Clemens in 2009 and coming back late in the season to pitch for the Philadelphia Phillies on their way to the World Series.
Now Martinez is hoping to mentor soon-to-be 24-year-old Rangers pitcher Neftali Feliz, who will try to follow the same career path Martinez did back in the early 1990s when he had one dominant year of relief work before transitioning to the starting rotation, where he went on to have a Hall of Fame career.
Feliz had to have looked up to Martinez as a child in the Dominican Republic, also Pedro's home country, so the Rangers really couldn't have set up a better meeting for Feliz.
Of course, Feliz and the rest of the Rangers pitching have Nolan Ryan to bounce things off, but Nolan is a biased observer, so bringing in a third party like Martinez might carry a little more weight.
"Coming form a guy like him who I always admired as a kid, I took it very seriously," Feliz told ESPNDallas. "He gave me advice about mental things and toughness. He was sincere with me. He said 'Be patient and don't get anxious. You'll get adjusted to it.'"
Martinez is a sure first-ballot Hall of Famer, posting a career 2.93 ERA in 18 seasons of work with more than 3,000 strikeouts and a career record of 219-100.
Feliz is coming off a bit of a regression year in 2011 after earning AL Rookie of the Year honors in 2010 while established a then-record for saves for a rookie (40). Last season, Feliz nearly doubled his walk total from 2010 and saw his strikeouts decline, but he still ended up posting a 2.74 ERA and recorded 32 saves.
The big difference for Feliz this off-season is that the Rangers told him early on that he'll be a starter in 2012, unlike last season when he went to spring training not sure of his role.
Now, Martinez can help him in that process of becoming a starter, something C.J. Wilson would've surely helped with too if he were still around.
"We talked about being a starter and working hard," Feliz told ESPNDallas. "It's sometihng I have to make an adjustment with my body and my routines. He said it's going to take me a little bit of time to get ready to be a starter."