At one time, Neftali Feliz was one of the best closers in all of baseball — a young arm that routinely would touch triple digits with his fastball and one of the authors of some of the greatest times in Rangers franchise history.
Now, he's on his way out after being designated for assignment over the weekend.
The beginning of the end for Feliz was when he had to undergo Tommy John surgery in 2012 after a failed attempt to become a starting pitcher after two straight years of winning AL Rookie of the Year in 2010 and earning an All-Star Game berth in 2011.
Feliz was OK as a starter, but he lacked secondary stuff to retire hitters multiple times. He made seven starts, and that was it for more than a year before he finally returned in September 2013 as a reliever and recorded 19 saves over the past season and a half after being bounced back and forth between Arlington and Round Rock to try to regain his form.
It never really came. The logical thing to do would be to point to the failed starting experiment and subsequent elbow surgery as the beginning of the end for Feliz, but general manager Jon Daniels sees it differently.
“I don’t," Feliz said when he asked by Ben and Skin on 105.3 FM if he regretted moving Feliz to the rotation. "And I’ve thought a lot about that question over the years. I’m of the mindset that the ligament was going to blow whether he was pitching the ninth inning, starting the first inning or throwing the middle. I don’t think starting was the reason he got hurt, I think that was likely going to happen regardless. I regret that he got hurt, don’t get me wrong, I’m not being callous about that. But I don’t buy into the idea that if he was closing, he would have an injury-free career.”
He's probably right. His delivery wasn't conducive to a long career — too much arm, not enough lower half and a whiplash delivery that just looked to be begging for arm trouble. But it's still a question worth asking, and a question worth pondering for Daniels.