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Neftali Feliz, 2014 Texas Rangers
The Texas Rangers saw a familiar face walk through the clubhouse doors at Citi Field in New York on Friday afternoon.
According to numerous Twitter reports Friday afternoon, former all-star closer and AL Rookie of the Year Neftali Feliz has joined the Rangers on the road trip in New York ahead of their series opener Friday night against the New York Mets.
Neftali Feliz just walked into #Rangers' clubhouse.
— Jeff Wilson (@JeffWilson_FWST) July 4, 2014
That's from the Star-Telegram's Jeff Wilson, who was one of many local media folks to report the news. You have to imagine there was a roar in the clubhouse for a guy who's struggled to find his old form after failing in a conversion to a starting pitcher and undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2012 and making his way back in September of last season.
This year, Feliz was all but certain to be the Rangers' closer but was beaten out this spring by Joakim Soria as Feliz struggled to pitch effectively on back-to-back days and saw his velocity struggle to hit 90 mph on his once-electric, triple-digit fastball.
But now, Feliz is back. It's been a while coming, as the 26-year-old righty hasn't allowed a run in his last nine outings for Triple-A Round Rock and has notched six saves during that time.
Side-armer Ben Rowen was optioned back to Round Rock in Feliz's place, and you have to think the Rangers' plan is that this is a long-term deal. They wouldn't be bringing him back if they didn't think he was ready to be a long-term contributor in the bullpen again. Soria's role as closer is safe for this year, but the Rangers will want to see what Feliz can do because Soria could be a nice trade chip ahead of the July 31 trade deadline. However, the Rangers won't ship Soria off with his club-friendly 2015 option if they don't have a sure thing waiting to close out games next season.
They hope that guy is Feliz. And they'll find out soon, one way or another.