The Texas Rangers sent their all-star caliber closer to a contending team on Wednesday, shipping Joakim Soria to the Detroit Tigers for a haul of two prime pitching prospects. Now, you might say, "Hey, the Rangers don't need a closer. They never have save opportunities," and to some extent, you're onto something.
Soria's opportunities dwindled to basically once every week, or sometimes longer, and in his last chance to get a save as a Ranger, he blew it in the Yankees' 14-inning win on Monday night.
So who steps into the role — needed or not — that Soria is vacating?
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Well, the Rangers have already made it known that the guy Soria beat out in spring training, former all-star closer and AL Rookie of the Year, Neftali Feliz, would get another shot to reclaim his glory of 2010 and 2011.
Since being recalled at the beginning of the month and making his 2014 big-league debut after figuring things out in Triple-A, Feliz has posted a 2.61 ERA, but the strikeout numbers of old are no longer there, which is concerning. In his 10 1/3 innings, he's fanned only four.
But what about Roman Mendez? The rookie call-up has been lights out in his small sample size thus far. In his five games (8 2/3 innings), he's yet to allow a run and has struck out six batters and allowed just two hits. He has walked five, which is the only blemish on an otherwise stellar sample.
Then there is Corey Knebel, who the Rangers got back from Detroit for Soria. The Texas native is the former UT closer and has major swing-and-miss stuff with a power fastball and a heavy curve. He could easily be the Rangers' closer in the next couple of years.
Sure, the job seems to be Feliz's for now, but he's got some young up-and-comers in his rearview, and he better make a statement over these next couple of months.