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If Feliz Starts, Rangers Must Get Stud Closer

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Getty Images
    Heath Bell and Jonathan Papelbon.

    The Texas Rangers and GM Jon Daniels said two days after the Rangers' Game 7 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series that Neftali Feliz's role on the 2012 team will be decided long before spring training.

    That's the way it should be, and it's a good approach. Stretching Feliz out in spring training as a starting pitching experiment could have been part of the reason for his early-season struggles when he was moved back to the closer's role for which he won the 2010 AL Rookie of the Year award.

    Conventional wisdom would say that the odds are in favor of Feliz becoming a starter using the old notion that 200 innings from a stud arm is better than 80 innings from that same arm.

    If that happens, the Rangers need to be proactive in finding a replacement for the ninth inning.

    Mike Adams shouldn't be that guy.

    There was some thought when he was acquired at the trade deadline that he could step in and close in 2012 when Feliz moved to the rotation, but he didn't show enough reliability down the stretch pitching in the American League against DHs and pitching in Rangers Ballpark as opposed to spacious Petco Park in San Diego.

    Is Adams a failure and a disappointment? No, he's far from it. And he might be capable of closing games, but the Rangers can't go with someone who "might be" capable of it.

    Paying big money for free agent closers has long proved a futile practice, but the Rangers need to ignore that notion in this case.

    There's clearly a window of opportunity here considering the past two seasons for this franchise and they need to strike while the iron is hot.

    They need a proven, reliable closer in the back of the bullpen if Feliz isn't available in that role, and there are numerous big-name free agents out there to be had.

    The big names out there start with Heath Bell (43 saves, 2.43 ERA), who the Rangers were close to getting instead of Adams at the trade deadline, but they wisely opted to go after Adams who they would control for more than a few months. It'd be nice to have Adams handing off to Bell to close games out again, and I'm sure they'd enjoy it too.

    There's also Ryan Madson, a 31-year-old who had 32 saves and a 2.37 ERA who isn't quite as proven as a guy like Bell but has plenty of potential. It also appears the Phillies are really, really close to re-upping Madson.

    There's also the injury-prone, yet once-automatic but aging Joe Nathan, who would probably be too big of a risk.

    Perhaps the most interesting case is Jonathan Papelbon. The 30-year-old Boston Red Sox closer had a bit of a down year by his standards, but still registered 31 saves and a 2.94 ERA, rebounding from 2010 when he posted a career-high ERA but still had 37 saves. The guy has two sub-2.00 ERA seasons since 2007 and is still in the prime of his career.

    Who knows how long the Rangers will be prime contenders for the World Series title, but while they are they need to be serious about locking up close ballgames, and the best way to do it would be to bring in Bell or Papelbon before someone else does.