After putting up a scoreless frame in each of his first two outings in the Arizona Rookie League, Neftali Feliz is set to make his debut with Triple-A Round Rock on Thursday night as the next step of a more than year-long rehab process from Tommy John surgery last year.
Feliz last pitched in the big leagues on May 18, 2012, after he had been converted from the Rangers' closer to a starter. In that game, Feliz worked 4 2/3 innings and allowed just one run to Houston but walked five. After that, he was shut down and later in the summer had reconstructive surgery on his right elbow.
As a reliever in 2010 and 2011, Feliz was the Rangers' closer and tallied 72 saves, including 40 in 2010 when he helped lead the Rangers to their first World Series while claiming AL Rookie of the Year honors.
You have to wonder if the starter experiment messed with Feliz's arm, but he had been groomed as a starter since he was a young kid in the Rangers' system, and the Braves' system before that.
If Feliz can return to the bigs this season, it won't be as a starter, as the club as already made it clear he'll return to the Rangers' bullpen, if he returns at all in 2013. Now, with the 25-year-old righty at this stage in the rehab process, it seems like he's on track to return sometime within the next month — possibly when rosters expand on September 1.
Adding Feliz to the bullpen will only help bolster an already strong unit that has been the team's strength all season. If it ends up that Feliz isn't effective, then you just don't pitch him. It's a pretty low-risk proposition that could pay dividends if he's back to form.