As spring training begins this week for the Texas Rangers, we're looking into some of the biggest questions facing the team in 2012. Five of our WFAA Sports Bloggers will answer five questions in what we're calling Take 5.
Kevin Turner: Yes, as long as he performs at a commendable level. The Rangers want to see what he can do in the rotation throughout the duration of the regular season.
If Feliz should happen to flame out, the Rangers won't leave him hanging out to dry. It'd be foolish to keep running him out there and letting him suffer, if he has trouble adjusting to starting.
That being said, I don't think Feliz will have issues reinventing himself. He's known since early winter that he's going to be starting, and while I'm not expecting him to be an ace, I do think he'll do a solid job and will be a good option for the back end of the rotation.
If the Rangers are on pace to make the playoffs, I would expect him to get shifted to the bullpen towards the end of the regular season. Adding his power to the bullpen would be a huge shot in the arm for the club, especially since a fifth starting pitcher is not needed in the postseason.
Alex Collins: This is a tough call. I hate trying to predict the future. Can we make this "Will Neftali Feliz be a starting pitcher for Texas in 2014?"
Because then, yes, I think he will. Gun to my head, I also say yes Feliz will be starting in August.
The only comparison I can make with Feliz right now is Michael Pineda, the hard-throwing righty in New York via Seattle. Pineda is young like Feliz, but throws two pitches very well (generally starters are expected to have at least a three-pitch arsenal). With two pitches Pineda was very effective in his first year, but Feliz only throws one pitch well, his fastball. Feliz must trust his secondary offerings if he has any hope for success in his post-closer stints on the rubber.
Things could be shaky, but the ability is there and the team believes in him, so Feliz will be around starting games for Texas in August.
Mike Marshall: If the six-man rotation idea is adopted, then yes, of course Neftali can be in the rotation in August. Under any other circumstance, no.
I don't believe it's entirely fair to base Feliz' path through this season on what happened to Ogando last year. Ogando had never been a starter before in his career. Neftali has.
With that said, I don't see a way they let him get past about 170 innings. Jumping anybody more than 100 innings in the matter of one off-season is not a solid plan. The most he's ever pitched is 127 innings in a season.
I do support the move to rotation though. I think it might have been better served last off season.
Sam Hale: Yes he will. You don't trade for Mike Adams and sign Joe Nathan to move Feliz back to the bullpen.
The Rangers have wanted to put Feliz in the rotation for the past couple of years, but the stars haven't aligned until now. Now the bullpen seems to be solidified (even more so when Ogando is sent back), and Feliz seems to be ready to give starting a chance. At this point, you need to find out what you have if you're Ron Washington.
Put him in the rotation and find out if he can start. If he can, great - let's develop this young starter. If not, well you know you've got a very usable bullpen piece.
Feliz is without question a commodity, now you have to figure out where that commodity fits.
Josh Davis: There is an obvious reason why the Rangers want to move Feliz into the starting rotation - you're not getting your money's worth on any pitcher unless he's a starter. Any relief pitcher, even a closer, can't impact games and eat at-bats like a starter.
The problem is, there is no other obvious reason to move Feliz to the rotation this year.
It should have been done in 2011, but Feliz was fresh off a rookie of the year campaign and looked to be turning into an unhittable closer. So, Alexi Ogando was pegged to be the fifth starter after Tommy Hunter was hurt in spring training.
Ogando rewarded the team an All-Star first half of 2011 before slowing down later in the year, as mounting innings and over-dependence on two pitches caught up with him. But Ogando went from pitching nearly 42 innings in 2010 to 169 innings in 2011. A drop off was to be expected as the summer wore on.
Ogando showed he can consistently throw a fastball and a slider. Feliz has only shown a fastball, and pitched about 62 innings in 2011.
Wouldn't it be easier for Ogando to learn one pitch and add a few more innings in 2012 than it would be for Feliz to learn two, plus add 100 innings to his year?
Feliz is still a young talent (only 23) and the Rangers know they are not maximizing his value as a closer. However, I think it would be more useful to give Feliz a year as a long reliever to work on his secondary pitches and conditioning before making the jump. His body will be too worn out to be a starting pitcher in August - back to the bullpen.
Which of our bloggers do you most agree with? Have your own take? Let us know in the comments!