Player Profile: Neftali Feliz

Player Profile: Neftali Feliz

Credit: Getty Images

Neftali Feliz #30 of the Texas Rangers pitches in the eighth inning against the Oakland Athletics at O.co Coliseum on September 4, 2013 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

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by EDDIE MIDDLEBROOK

WFAA Sports

Posted on March 1, 2014 at 7:00 AM

Updated Friday, Feb 28 at 11:38 PM

 

2013 Stats: Six appearances, 0.00 ERA, 4.2 IP, 4 Ks

Salary: $3 million (Arbitration eligible, Free Agent in 2016)

Each week, we will look at key players on the Texas Rangers 25-man roster, and this time we look at the team’s closer, Neftali Feliz.

Year in Review: After having Tommy John surgery in August 2012, the 2013 season was essentially lost for Feliz. He was able to join the team when the rosters expanded in September, but only made six appearances and never on less than two days’ rest.

Career: Despite only being 25 years old (turns 26 on May 2), Feliz’s career would make a great Greek tragedy. In 2010, he had his best season as he saved 40 games, sported a 2.73 ERA, 165 ERA+ and won the Rookie of the Year award. After having another solid season in 2011 where Feliz had 32 saves, 2.74 ERA and a 162 ERA+, he is most known for his World Series Game 6 implosion against the St. Louis Cardinals.

We won’t revisit every detail of that fateful night, but there has been much discussion of Feliz’s psyche since then, specifically with Manager Ron Washington’s decision to not put him back in the game. Washington spoke about it in November 2011, to the Ben & Skin Show:

“We’ll just say that he was really upset and his state of mind at the time wasn’t where we felt like he could go out there and get it done,” Washington said. “The lineup set up perfectly for Darren Oliver and he didn’t get it done. So it wasn’t like we didn’t get it done because Neftali didn’t go back out there. I still think that lineup set up perfectly for who we put out there and the job just didn’t get done, and then the end result, we didn’t get it done.”

Feliz hasn’t saved a game since.

In 2012, after the loss of C.J. Wilson to free agency, the Rangers front office gave Feliz an opportunity to become a starter. In seven starts, he was more than effective as he went 3-1 with a 3.16 ERA, 139 ERA+ and pitched six-plus innings in four of those starts. Feliz did struggle with command as he gave up 4.8 walks per nine innings. The Neftali Feliz starter experiment didn’t last long though as he was placed on the 60-day DL on May 21, due to a sprained UCL.

2014 season: As the season quickly approaches, Feliz is heading back to his familiar role as closer of the Texas Rangers.

"I know I'm preparing for one job," Feliz said recently through an interpreter. "I'm preparing to be the closer and that's it."

His velocity reportedly hit 97 and 98 mph in the Dominican league this past winter, which is a welcomed sight after seeing his average four-seam fastball dip to 93.58 in 2013 (historically, his fastball has been 95+ as a reliever).

"I felt very comfortable," Feliz said. "I felt strong. I've done this in the past, and having the experience in the Dominican League gave me more confidence to pitch."

ZIPS has a very conservative projection for Feliz: 37 IP, 3.65 ERA, 118 ERA+ and 0.6 WAR.

All signs point to Feliz being healthy for 2014, and I’m not worried about mentality still being affected by 2011. If you want to see a success story for someone who experienced something very similar to Feliz, look no further than Brad Lidge.

“And why do we fall, Bruce? So we can learn to pick ourselves up.” – Thomas Wanye (Batman Begins, 2005)

Eddie Middlebrook is a staff writer for Paranoid Fan, covering MLB and college football. Back in 2010, Eddie wrote for Fox Sports Southwest covering the Texas Rangers, Dallas Cowboys, Dallas Mavericks and the Big 12. In 2012, he began writing for Shutdown Inning where he eventually became Vice President of Media. You can email Eddie at eddie@paranoidfan.com or catch him on Twitter @emiddlebrook.

 

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