Neftali Feliz still confident after blown save

August, 7, 2011
8/07/11
12:10
AM CT
ARLINGTON, Texas -- Rangers starter C.J. Wilson knows something about what closer Neftali Feliz is going through.

Wilson, a closer once himself, was in position to get a win on Saturday and pitched well enough to earn it. But Feliz, pitching for a third consecutive game, couldn't get the final three outs of the game and the Indians mounted a comeback to beat the Rangers, 7-5.

"Being a former closer myself, I understand exactly how thin of a margin you have," Wilson said. "One run is not a lot to work with."

Wilson added that if the fly ball hit by Kosuke Fukudome stays in Nelson Cruz's glove on what would have been a phenomenal running catch, the entire inning develops differently. That leadoff double set things up for the Indians to take the lead.

"It was a half-inch away," Wilson said. "As Wash says, 'That’s the way baseball go.' But with Neffie, when he’s getting his off-speed over for strikes, then it gives hitters a little bit more to think about. Sometimes he locates really well, and sometimes he doesn’t. When you have a margin like that, it’s tough."

That off-speed and breaking stuff wasn't getting over for strikes and the Indians were able to wait out Feliz's fastball. And even as fast as 99 mph, they could time it right and get some hits. That's what Lonnie Chisenhall did in the ninth to score the tying run. The Indians took the lead on Michael Brantley's double.

Manager Ron Washington didn't indicate a desire to change closers or alter his bullpen formation.

"My confidence is still high, it never wavered," Washington said. “I don’t think [the Indians] lost confidence in their closer last night. They brought him back out there.

"There are no guarantees in the game of baseball, that’s why you play it. When you give the ball to your closer you feel good about the game being over, but there’s no guarantees."

It was Feliz's sixth blown save of the season, double the number he had in all of 2010. He finished that season as the AL Rookie of the Year and was as close to automatic as you could get, setting a rookie record with 40 saves and a 93 percent save percentage. That Feliz had 71 strikeouts and 18 walks. The 2011 version has 20 walks and just 29 strikeouts. In other words: He's not missing as many bats as he did last season.

Feliz said he still has confidence he can get outs and said he feels like he can throw his secondary pitches in any count. The key is getting them over for strikes.

"You just have to keep your head up," Feliz said through a translator. "I haven't had the same results as last year, but I felel good. I have to keep my head up and keep battling."

Feliz said pitching three consecutive nights did not play a part in his performance.

"I felt good," Feliz said. "I don't think I had any problems with my arm. I was 100 percent. I was trying to do the same thing [as the first two nights], and that's what happens."

Wilson clearly still believes Feliz can become a dominant closer.

"He’s a young guy, he’s going to have ups and downs," Wilson said. "He’s not going to be Mariano Rivera for another year or two, maybe three. That’s just part of the development process, it’s not an easy job at all. I know that, and that’s why I support him so much, I think he’s got so much potential, and you just have to ride it out because he has so much talent."
Richard Durrett joined ESPNDallas.com in September 2009. He writes about colleges, the Dallas Stars and the Texas Rangers. Richard spent nine years at The Dallas Morning News covering the Rangers, Stars, colleges, motorsports and high schools.

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TEAM LEADERS

WINS LEADER
Martin Perez
WINS ERA SO IP
2 2.70 12 20
OTHER LEADERS
BAE. Andrus .305
HRE. Andrus 1
RBIA. Rios 7
RE. Andrus 8
OPSS. Choo .776
ERAY. Darvish 0.82
SOY. Darvish 23