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Neftali Feliz Choice is Wrong, But Rangers Are Handling it Right

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Rangers Handling Feliz Right

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Neftali Feliz worked three sharp innings against the A's on Wednesday, mixing in new pitches to shut down the Oakland hitters while working in relief of Derek Holland.

It was the kind of performance that makes you feel awfully good about Feliz's chances of making gains on his outstanding rookie season. It's also the kind of performance that makes you wonder why a team with serious questions about their starting rotation and great bullpen depth isn't using one of their most talented pitchers to shut down opposing hitters for more than three outs in a game.

All of the reasons against using him as a starter make sense. Whether you're talking about his success as a closer or his own desire to pitch out of the pen or a belief in the other contenders, the Rangers should feel confident about their chances with Feliz in relief. Still, a pitcher of his ability is more valuable as a starter and the Rangers are risking a lot by ignoring that for the 2011 season.

That said, the way they are handling the situation can't be criticized. Feliz is going to be the closer and there doesn't appear to be any wiggle room for fudging with that role during the upcoming season. Feliz's extended workload and experimentation with new pitches would indicate otherwise if it wasn't for the fact that both should simply make him a better pitcher regardless of role. He can nail down six out saves, remain in tie games longer of face the same hitters more often as a result of this experimentation, which makes it a clear win.

Thousands of hairs have been pulled out of New York City heads as a result of the way the Yankees botched Joba Chamberlain's ascent, a climb that has stalled with the once stratospheric prospect pitching middle relief. The biggest problem there and in other similar cases has been the inability of teams to pick a course of action and stick to it through the course of a season.

There's been no sign the Rangers will fall victim to that because there's been no talk of competing for a rotation spot or seeing how things play out. Even while they admit to seeing him as a starter, they're comfortable enough with Feliz remaining where he is for now. That consistency should serve them well this time next year when, we have to imagine, Feliz will make the next step in his evolution into a fully developed pitcher.

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