When the Texas Rangers announced the signing of Roy Oswalt on Tuesday night, it set off all kinds of chatter about the future of the team and certain players, specifically that of former Rookie of the Year Neftali Feliz.
Feliz won the award in 2010 as a closer, setting a then-record for saves in a season by a rookie with 40. The following spring, he was stretched out to be a starter, and pushed back to the bullpen. He blew the World Series in October and was promptly slotted to be a starter this season with no wavering.
Through seven starts this year before hitting the disabled list, he went 3-1 with a rotation-best ERA of 3.16 with 37 strikeouts and 23 walks, but despite the ERA there was no doubt in logic's mind that he was the team's No. 5 starter this season — about where he was expected to be in his first season as a starter.
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So, the big question is, what happens to Feliz when he returns from the disabled list? And just how bad is that elbow injury which is rumored to be involving the ulnar nerve, which as we all know can lead to Tommy John surgery?
Assuming Oswalt comes to town and can remain healthy (he's had back issues for a couple of years now), he will without a doubt be a starter. And who are you going to remove from the rotation other than Feliz? The answer there, again, barring another injury, is no one.
Oswalt isn't going to be an ace for the Rangers. He'll be 35 in August and had a 3.69 ERA in 2011 with the Phillies with a couple of DL stints mixed in. In 2010 with the Phillies, however, he was 7-1 with a 1.74 ERA after being traded from Houston, so he's not far removed from some quality days. Sure, pitching in the American League is tougher than in the National League, but so is pitching in Arlington. Over his career, he's 2-5 with a 4.78 ERA at Rangers Ballpark, but remember, he was facing some pretty insane lineups and playing for some bad Astros teams.
Jerry Crasnick, of ESPN.com, said this today on Twitter (@jcrasnick): A scout who recently saw Roy Oswalt throw was very impressed. Good news for
#rangers. And then added this: "He was nails,'' the scout said of Oswalt. "His stuff looked plenty good to me. He might be closer to ready than people think.''
As long as he stays healthy, he's going to be a starter. The Rangers aren't giving him millions of dollars to come in and be an insurance policy or a long reliever.
That means, again, barring further injury, Feliz will return to the bullpen when he returns from the DL. And that's not necessarily a bad thing, except for the whole jerking around Feliz thing. Just imagine a bullpen of Joe Nathan, Mike Adams, Alexi Ogando, Feliz and Koji Uehara, not to mention Mark Lowe and Scott Feldman.
Just remember, no one was sold on Feliz to the rotation in the first place. We said here that it would be a work in progress and tried to curb expectations for this season. Quite frankly, the fact that his ERA is so good right now is unexpected, miraculous even.
Yahoo! Sports' Jeff Passan had this to say: Forget Oswalt in the rotation. The Nathan-Feliz-Ogando-Adams-Uehara-Ross-Lowe bullpen is what truly makes the Rangers Freddy-level scary.
So what this move does for Feliz past the 2012 season is still up in the air, but it's quite clear what it means for the remainder of the 2012 season. The only question that remains is, does Neftali Feliz have to wear the Robbie Ross get-up now that he'll be the "new guy" in the pen? OK, not really.