ANAHEIM, Calif. -- A few days prior to the trade deadline, Rangers manager Ron Washington told the media didn't see enough urgency or "fire," as he put it, from closer Neftali Feliz.
On Thursday, one night after Feliz got the save in a 4-3 Rangers win over the Angels that pushed the club's divison lead to a season-high seven games, Washington was asked if he sees that fire.
"I see it," Washington said. "He's found it at the right time. If you're ever going to have fire, you're going to have it down the stretch. This is the point of the year where championship teams and winning teams have a chance to do something, and he's stepping up."
Since Washington made his comment about Feliz's "fire," the closer has saved four of his last five opportunities and has given up three runs in 10 games (9 2/3 innings) -- and all of those occurred in a rough outing against Cleveland, his one blown save in that stretch. Earlier in the season, his walks were up and strikeouts down. But in this last span, he has eight strikeouts and two walks.
Feliz has saved his best work this season for the AL West. He is 1-0 with a 0.57 ERA and is 9-for-9 in save opportunities.
Washington said he doesn't believe Feliz ever feared for his job with the arrival of Koji Uehara and Mike Adams, but that he has a real sense of urgency when they come in the game because he knows it's likely that he's going to be coming in after them.
* Andres Blanco, on the disabled list with a stress reaction in his lower back, is taking grounders and running. He said he hopes to swing a bat while the team is in Chicago, but probably off a tee. "It's like I'm starting over, so I need to start slow," Blanco said. He did say he feels better and just wants to be sure he doesn't have any setbacks as he tries to progress to getting back on the field.
* Matt Harrison flew on Thursday morning to Chicago so that he would be able to get a full night's sleep before his start on Friday. The Rangers may not arrive until 4 or 5 a.m. after tonight's game in Anaheim. (I didn't see Alexi Ogando and it's possible he also flew to Chicago.)
* The Rangers weren't thrilled with playing a night game and then having to fly to Chicago to play the next night. But when both teams talked about this series before the season, the Rangers had no way of giving the Angels a day game in Arlington, which is normally how it's done. The Angels are at home all weekend, so they'd prefer to play the night game. "It's on the schedule," Washington said. "What can you do?"
* Washington said the plan is to go through a full batting practice regimen in Chicago despite the early-morning arrival.