Have you seen the movie "Rookie of the Year"?
You might think that a film about a teenage boy who breaks his arm and suddenly becomes the best pitcher in baseball when it heals lacks something in the realism department. Admittedly, there are some pretty big plot holes, but Wednesday night's Rangers game shows that the screenwriters were on to something.
At the end of the movie, young Henry Rowengartner's magical powers wear off and he's left with nothing but a wet noodle of an arm against big league hitters. He comes up with the rather novel idea of letting hitters get to first base before trying everything in his power to pick them off. Farfetched? Only until you realize that Neftali Feliz did the same thing against the Royals.
After Feliz blew the save by allowing a home run to Eric Hosmer leading off the ninth, he proceeded to walk the next two batters. Both of them were replaced by pinch runners and both of those runners got themselves picked off first base. Not only was it about as humorous as an inning of baseball could possibly be, it also got Feliz out of an inning that looked destined to end with the Royals celebrating at home plate.
When everyone finished laughing, however, they probably felt a little bit like crying. Feliz got out of the ninth without losing the game, but he needed to be rescued in the 10th when he allowed two of the first three Royals to reach on base hits. Arthur Rhodes navigated the team to safety and left them in position to win 5-4 in 11 innings, but it's hard not to focus on Feliz's troubles.
If it was just one game in the middle of a long season, you'd shrug it off as a bad night. Feliz has looked quite shaky in every appearance since his return from the disabled list, though, and Wednesday night was no exception.
His velocity and command weren't there as they were before he went down with shoulder trouble, leaving him with very little chance of navigating his way to a successful night's work. Adding fuel to the fire is the fact that he looked worse on Wednesday than he looked in his previous underwhelming appearances.
It is too soon to jump into full fledged panic mode, but after dancing around the starting issue this spring and coming down with shoulder trouble it is impossible not to be concerned. After all, every night won't provide the chance to pick off runners like so many apples from a tree.