At the time this article was published, Feliz was scheduled to start. The Rangers have since changed their plans for the game against the Padres. Feliz will now pitch one inning of relief work.
Neftali Feliz is scheduled to start tonight in a Cactus League game against the San Diego Padres, and when the Texas Rangers take the field, the biggest question mark/dilemma this spring will be taking the mound.
Yes, Feliz has had a better than good spring in his bid to become a starter, and he's probably already the third best starter on the roster behind C.J. Wilson and Colby Lewis.
The decision should be made already, but it will definitely be made after tonight's start: Do you start Feliz, or finish with him?
Feliz set a rookie record last year with 40 saves and earned AL Rookie of the Year honors. He's a bona fide closer, a sure thing.
Moving Feliz to the rotation right now would open up two question marks. One, can Feliz start? A great spring doesn't translate to a great summer. Second, and just as importantly, who will close for this team?
Manager Ron Washington said if Feliz starts, he's confident GM Jon Daniels will deal for a proven closer. There's really none to be had.
The in-house candidates haven't impressed. Mark Lowe has had an awful spring, as has Darren O'Day, who was a closer in college.
Alexi Ogando was uber impressive last season in a set-up role and impressed yet again this spring in his bid to be a starter. But earlier this week, the Rangers decided to move Ogando back to the bullpen, seemingly with the idea of him being the closer when Feliz moves to the rotation.
It's just one outing, and it's spring, but he had all kinds of struggles and blew a save opportunity in Wednesday night's loss. Even if he's fine, he's definitely not a "proven closer". There's nothing more demoralizing than taking a lead into the ninth inning and seeing it washed away by a leaky back-end of the bullpen.
The right decision for the Rangers is to return Feliz to the role he was dominant in a year ago. Next year, with many proven closers on the free agent market, you can go get someone and finally make the move on Feliz. He's proven he could be a quality starter, but he's more valuable to this team, right now, somewhere else.