Say what you want about Neftali Feliz's failed run at being a starting pitcher in the 2012 season, but the more time that goes by and the more problems Feliz has, it's become more and more apparent it was an ill-fated move by the Rangers' brass.
You see, Feliz was one of the game's best closers in 2010 and 2011, racking up more than 70 saves between the two years and winning AL Rookie of the Year honors in 2010 while helping close down games en route to two straight World Series appearances in those two seasons.
His failed attempt at starting in 2012 resulted in Tommy John surgery, and since then the once electrifying righty has struggled to regain his 2010 and 2011 form and his 2010 and 2011 velocity. Now, Feliz is on the disabled list again, thanks to an abcess under his throwing arm, but that came after he was demoted from the closer's role after blowing a save early last month. Since then, the Rangers have won six straight series and Shawn Tolleson has been nearly untouchable as the team's closer.
That's not to say Feliz can never have the role again, though, and he's still working on trying to get back to that point by tinkering with his delivery and trying to get back to his old self from a mechanical standpoint, as well as a results standpoint.
Pitching coach Mike Maddux and bullpen coach Andy Hawkins have been working with Feliz on his windup after noticing he held his hands higher in the stretch in 2010 and 2011 before moving them down lower after the starting bid, according to the Star-Telegram.
Holding the hands higher could lead to some regained velocity, at least that seems to be the prevailing thought.
“We will take it outing by outing,” manager Jeff Banister told the Star-Telegram. “He made some adjustments in his delivery, we’ll see what that looks like, how that feels, how he feels with it.”
Tolleson's performance has allowed the Rangers to take it slow with Feliz, and whether Feliz returns to his role as Rangers closer or gets right and then enters a setup role is yet to be determined, but if he can regain his velocity and effectiveness, it'd be hard to imagine him not going back to the closer's role.
“We have some guys out of that bullpen who have been throwing the ball very well,” Banister said. “That gives us an opportunity to allow Nefty to do the things he needs to do so that when he does come back he’s closer to being that dominant guy in the bullpen we’ve seen in the past.”