Neftali Feliz was far from dominant in his debut for Triple-A Round Rock, the next step in his big-league rehab assignment, but the fact that he pitched this has to be considered a small victory for the former Rangers closer-turned starter who underwent Tommy John surgery last summer.
Feliz is a candidate to return to the Texas Rangers this season, most likely when rosters expand in September to help bolster an already strong bullpen after having reconstructive elbow surgery last season after being shut down in May in his first season as a starting pitcher for the Rangers. In the two previous seasons, Feliz racked up 72 saves, including 40 in 2010 when he won AL Rookie of the Year honors.
Feliz's fastball sat in the low 90s, not his accustomed 97 or 98, with occasional triple-digit heat. But at this point in the rehab process, it's not a bad sign. He struggled to throw strikes, getting just 11 in his 22 pitches, allowing a hit and two walks.
"My velocity was OK," Feliz told ESPN Dallas. "I'm not trying to throw too hard. I want to keep the ball down."
According to ESPN Dallas, Feliz is scheduled to make his first back-to-back appearances next Friday and Saturday, which is usually one of the last steps for a reliever before returning to a big-league mound.
"He's trying to get back to where he was," Round Rock pitching coach Brad Holman said. "He was getting side-to-side, habits that he had when he was going good. He's aware of it. We'll address it and get him ready for his next start."