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Preseason Questions: Is Feliz Ready to Close?

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    NEWSLETTERS

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    ARLINGTON, TX - OCTOBER 23: Neftali Feliz #30 of the Texas Rangers celebrates after defeating the St. Louis Cardinals 4-0 in Game Four of the MLB World Series at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington on October 23, 2011 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

    In less than two months, the 2014 baseball season will begin. The Texas Rangers are poised to return to the postseason, but there are a good amount of questions surrounding the season.

    Question: Is Neftali Feliz ready to be an elite closer again?

    The last time Neftali Feliz was called upon to close a game for the Texas Rangers, it ended in a horrible, horrible way. That, of course, was Game 6 of the 2011 World Series when Feliz was one strike away from giving the Rangers a World Series title before David Freese's triple over the head of Nelson Cruz tied the game the Cardinals eventually won to force a Game 7, which the Cardinals also won.

    Feliz was moved to the rotation in 2012 and pitched fairly well before being shut down and undergoing Tommy John surgery. He made his return in September and appeared in six games, giving up five hits and no runs in 4 2/3 innings of relief.

    Now, he seems to the favorite to return to the closer's role after the Rangers let Joe Nathan walk in free agency, and reports are he's throwing 98 mph again and appears to be plenty healthy. Feliz racked up 40 saves in 2010, winning AL Rookie of the Year honors, and 32 more in 2011, but that last save attempt in 2011 went poorly, causing many to question if Feliz could ever be trusted to close games again after such a devastating moment. Many reports said Feliz was inconsolable in the dugout after that disastrous half-inning and wasn't mentally right to even go back out for the next inning.

    It's now been three years since that fateful night, and the hope is that Feliz is again ready to jump back on his horse and be an elite closer in baseball.