For the second straight season, the Texas Rangers are stretching Neftali Feliz out to be a starter in spring training, but there's one difference. This time, it's real, and there's no going back.
Feliz has made a conscious commitment to improving his off-speed stuff because as a starter you can't just go out and throw gas all the time like he could as a closer. It's been the question about Feliz as a starter the whole time, and Thursday's spring debut was no different.
Feliz labored through the first inning, needing 28 pitches to get three outs, and he gave up a big bomb to Adam Dunn, who's been known to hit those from time to time. He struggled with his control and had to rely on his fastball. You know, typical bad Feliz.
But in the second inning, good Feliz showed up as he needed just eight pitches to retire the side and he found his control.
After the game, Feliz reminded folks that this is just spring training, where pitchers don't go out trying to win games but instead trying to work on their areas of improvement: in Feliz's case, off-speed control.
"I got the ball down and it was better," Feliz told ESPN Dallas through an interpreter. "I wasn't worried about results."
More getting the ball down will mean good things for Feliz and the Rangers once April rolls around.