New closer could be the old one

July, 24, 2014
Jul 24
12:06
AM CT
NEW YORK -- Joakim Soria is gone.

Soria, the Texas Rangers' closer, was traded Wednesday night to the Detroit Tigers for two pitching prospects expected to make a big-league roster soon.

With Soria now becoming a setup man in Detroit, manager Ron Washington could turn to Neftali Feliz as the closer again.

[+] EnlargeNeftali Feliz
AP Photo/LM OteroNeftali Feliz, who has been a bit of a forgotten man on the Rangers' pitching staff, could have a new role after the trade of Joakim Soria.
You remember Feliz?

Over a two-year stretch, he saved 72 games and was named AL Rookie of the year in 2010 for a 40-save season that also earned him a trip to the All-Star Game.

Tommy John surgery, a move to make him a starter and confidence issues made Feliz a forgotten man.

It seemed everything came crashing down on Feliz, 26, after he blew the save in Game 6 of the 2011 World Series, giving up a two-run triple to St. Louis' David Freese with two on, two out with two strikes. The Cardinals would win the game in 11 innings and then clinch the World Series in seven games.

The next season, Feliz was moved to the starting rotation and it just didn't work. In May 2012, Feliz was put on the 60-day disabled list because of a sprained UCL. Rehab didn't help and he underwent Tommy John surgery that summer.

He was a late callup last season as he recovered from surgery and while he couldn't get the closer's job back, the Rangers didn't believe he could start either.

Feliz dealt with confidence issues in the minors and he started the 2014 season at Triple-A Round Rock.

Gaining confidence for any closer is important and Feliz won the closer's gig in Round Rock converting seven of nine chances.

The Rangers called him up July 4 and he has retired eight consecutive batters the last two games.

Tuesday night at Yankee Stadium, Washington took starter Nick Martinez out of the sixth inning of a scoreless game for Feliz. Derek Jeter was up and a man was on first. Felix retired Jeter on a popup to short, then retired Jacoby Ellsbury on a ground out to short to end the inning.

Feliz doesn't have that blazing fastball anymore, the one that was clocked in the high 90s before the surgery. His fastball now is in the low to mid 90s. So it's all about pitch placement and setting up hitters now.

In his next inning Tuesday night, Feliz struck out Carlos Beltran, got Brian McCann to line out into the shift and retired Kelly Johnson on a bouncer to third.

That was his night and now his future appears to be heading back to the closer's role.

"Feliz of old was an elite dominant-level closer," GM Jon Daniels said Wednesday night. "Obviously it's been a two-year road back from surgery and we'll see. Talking to Wash he may get that opportunity. We'll see how he responds to it and whether it's something like a traditional closer or Wash wants to mix or match. We'll see how it will play out. Neftali is so young and you still see the ability."
Calvin Watkins joined ESPNDallas.com in September 2009. He's covered the Cowboys since 2006 and also has covered colleges, boxing and high school sports.

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TEAM LEADERS

WINS LEADER
Colby Lewis
WINS ERA SO IP
10 5.12 123 158
OTHER LEADERS
BAA. Beltre .323
HRA. Beltre 18
RBIA. Beltre 71
RA. Beltre 75
OPSA. Beltre .876
ERAC. Lewis 5.12
SOY. Darvish 182