Will Neftali Feliz Ever Regain His Fastball?

We’ll never forget the memory. The pain. The agony. The enduring image of Neftali Feliz coming thissss close.

If Nelson Cruz plays deeper and catches David Freese’s liner to right … history would be different for the Texas Rangers. And the present would be a lot rosier for Feliz.

In the wake of that gut-wrenching Game 6 loss to the Cardinals, manager Ron Washington said he didn’t give the ball to Feliz again because he wasn’t mentally prepared to pitch. Quite the damnation. The following season Feliz attempted to join the rotation, but made only seven starts before suffering a devastating elbow injury that kept him out most of last season as well.

In 2010-11 Feliz was a dominating closer and a huge reason the Rangers went to two straight World Series, saving a combined 72 games. But now – as 2014 dawns in the desert – who is Feliz and where exactly does he fit in?

He wants to return to the bullpen, and re-emerge as the All-Star closer to replace the departed Joe Nathan.

But so far, so mediocre.

Jostling with Joakim Soria for the closer’s job, Feliz on Sunday hung a couple of change-ups, gave up a homer and threw a fastball that hit only 92 mph. Soria worked a perfect inning.

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I think all Rangers fans are rooting for Feliz. When he debuted as a 21-year-old in ’09 it was magical. He combined a 100-mph fastball with a 77-mph curve and an electric personality. His strikeout of A-Rod to beat the Yankees and clinch the Rangers’ first trip to the World Series will also be an organizational Top 5 moment.

But at this point we have to wonder: Will Feliz ever be the same, physically or psychologically?

A native Texan who was born in Duncanville and graduated from UT-Arlington, Richie Whitt has been a mainstay in the Metroplex media since 1986. He’s held prominent roles on all media platforms including newspaper (Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Dallas Observer), radio (105.3 The Fan) and TV (co-host on TXA 21 and numerous guest appearances, including NBC 5). He currently writes a sports/guy stuff blog at DFWSportatorium.com and lives in McKinney with his wife, Sybil, and two very spoiled dogs.

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