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Ron Washington wants experienced closer to replace Neftali Feliz, who had zero experience before 40 saves

Mar 15, 2011, 2:24 PM EDT

World Series Giants Rangers Baseball

Now that Neftali Feliz is apparently on board with the front office wanting to make him a starter Ron Washington is facing the very real possibility of being without his 40-save closer from last season and the manager told Tim MacMahon of that he’d expect the Rangers to acquire a veteran reliever to fill the role:

I have confidence in Jon Daniels and our scouts. If that’s the case, I’m 100 percent sure they’ll go out there and find somebody to close ballgames down for us. Who do we have in our bullpen that’s closed ballgames down? We ain’t talking about “might be able to.” We need somebody that’s bona fide to close ballgames down. But, like I said, if we need to stay in-house, we’ll figure that out.

What’s interesting about Washington’s push for an experienced closer is that Feliz had zero experience as a closer before saving a rookie-record 40 games as a 22-year-old. In fact, he was a full-time starter in the minors as recently as the middle of 2009 and came into last season with two career saves. Managers’ desire for “an experienced closer” is so strong that the guy who just went to the World Series with a 22-year-old ex-starter as a rookie closer isn’t even open to the idea of letting another inexperienced guy get first crack at the gig.

Arthur Rhodes and Darren Oliver certainly meet any qualification for relief experience, but neither of them has been a full-time closer and another in-house candidate, right-hander Mark Lowe, has just four career saves. Setting aside all the “experienced closer” stuff, the most obvious candidate to me is Alexi Ogando, who has overpowering raw stuff and posted a 1.30 ERA with a 39/16 K/BB ratio in 42 innings as a rookie. And soon enough hard-throwing prospect Tanner Scheppers will be ready for a call-up.

In other words, unless Washington is absolutely insistent on handing ninth-inning duties to someone with a significant number of career saves the Rangers are probably better off trusting another inexperienced guy to come through just like Feliz did last season.

  1. indyralph - Mar 15, 2011 at 3:20 PM

    Aaron, I find the first part of the first sentence “Now that Neftali Feliz is apparently on board with the front office wanting to make him a starter” very interesting in a more general sense than just this particular situation. My reaction is basically this, how narrow has the job description of a manager gotten? Both Aaron’s first sentence and Washington’s comments seem to suggest that the front office is now defining not only the general shape of the roster, but also the specific roles of the players. In a league with a DH, it seems like the manager’s job is getting closer and closer to a cheerleader/leader of men type role.

  2. arrabin56 - Mar 15, 2011 at 3:32 PM

    If they really want an experienced closer, I have a spare K-Rod I can offer. Literally will trade him for nothing.

  3. Mike Luna - Mar 15, 2011 at 3:35 PM

    I get the feeling that the team wanted Mark Lowe to seize the job. His spring has been rocky, so it might be that Washington is trying to getting his attention.

    Or, maybe, he really just wants Jon Daniels to know that he wants a suitable replacement if Feliz makes the switch.

    • gt929 - Mar 15, 2011 at 6:42 PM

      That Lowe theory sounds plausible. I agree with Aaron, pretty sure Ogando could handle it just fine, though he is making his own case for a rotation spot.

  4. fuggles7 - Mar 15, 2011 at 5:26 PM

    The Jays have way to many arms in the bullpen this spring. How about a Jason Fraser for Chris Davis trade?

  5. professor59 - Mar 16, 2011 at 11:57 AM

    Hey, you can have Brad Lidge for Michael Young! You said “experienced closer”, right? Tell you what, you even have Lidge for Michael Young’s rookie card.

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