Apr 5, 2010, 2:44 PM EST
Ron Washington just confirmed that Neftali Feliz will be the Rangers’ eighth-inning setup man in front of closer Frank Francisco.
Feliz established himself as an elite starter prospect in the minors, but joined the Rangers’ bullpen for his big-league debut last August and was nearly unhittable down the stretch, tossing 31 innings with a 1.74 ERA, .124 opponents’ batting average, and 39/8 K/BB ratio.
During the offseason the Rangers’ brass seemed unclear about whether they wanted Feliz to remain in the bullpen or go back to starting again. Early on in spring training they talked about him being a candidate for the rotation, but eventually that notion faded.
At just 22 years old Feliz seemingly deserves at least a chance to show that he can be dominant for 200 innings per season as a starter rather than 75 innings per season as a reliever, but because Texas isn’t New York you won’t hear much Joba Chamberlain-type uproar either way.
Whatever role he ends up filling, Feliz’s presence is a big part of why I picked the Rangers to win their first division title since way back in 1999. Their rotation is shaky, particularly if Rich Harden fails to stay healthy again, but the lineup should do plenty of damage and the late-inning duo of Francisco and Feliz is among the most overpowering in baseball.
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