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Monday, March 29, 2010
Feliz flashes extra firepower vs. Rockies

By Jim Reeves

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Neftali Feliz got the message over the weekend. He then delivered it, at 101 miles per hour, to the Colorado Rockies in a 7-6 Rangers victory Monday afternoon at Surprise Stadium.

On Saturday, Feliz had been summoned to manager Ron Washington’s office.

“He thought we were sending him down,” Washington said. “It scared him.”

Sending him down was the furthest thing from their minds. Instead, Washington and pitching coach Mike Maddux wanted Feliz to understand what they wanted from him when he’s called from the bullpen.

On Friday, Feliz had served up a three-run homer to Jake Fox, the fourth time in four A game appearances he’d surrendered runs. His normally supersonic fastball was nestling in the vicinity of 91-94 mph. He’d seemingly forgotten what got him to the big leagues in the first place.

“We told him if he’s going to be out there for multiple innings,” Washington said, “it was OK to pitch a little. But when we need one inning out of him, we want him to leave it all out there.”

In other words, bring back the howitzer.

Feliz did that in the ninth inning against the Rockies, striking out the side for the save and, in the process, hitting 100 mph or higher on the radar gun with at least half a dozen of his pitches. Colorado minor leaguer Chris Nelson could only wave futilely at Feliz’s last pitch, a 101-mph beauty. Two of the triple digit pitches tickled the 101 mark.

Earlier in the day, Washington had been asked what concerned him about Feliz.

“That he doesn’t take how good he is for granted,” Washington said. “That he keeps the fire burning in his belly.”

Feliz got the message and he passed it on to the Rockies, just as Washington had hoped he would.

Other Monday notables:

*Darren Oliver kept his Cactus League ledger squeaky clean -- no runs allowed in an A game -- but only because Michael Young and newcomer Andres Blanco turned an eye-opening bases-loaded double play to bail him out in the top of the eighth.

*How much does Washington love Blanco? Said general manager Jon Daniels, “I think Wash wants to adopt him.” That’s OK. Washington knows infielders like Maddux knows pitchers.

*Hmmm. Maybe Wash should re-think his plan to hit Nelson Cruz seventh in the Rangers’ lineup. Cruz crushed his fifth home run of the spring onto the grassy hill in center, then hit another moonshot that caromed off the centerfield wall for a double. He might drive in 100-plus runs if he hits fourth or fifth.

*Jarrod Saltalamacchia appeared in an A game for the first time since suffering muscle spasms in his shoulder area over a week ago and caught the first six innings without any problems.

*Daniels ranks the chances of the Rangers making a deal for a right-handed hitting first baseman for a bench role at about 50-50. He said if the Rangers do opt to break camp with one of their young players there -- say Matt Brown -- it doesn’t mean that they couldn’t add a veteran later. My guess: If the Red Sox don’t decide to move Mike Lowell, the Rangers will go with Brown. Rangers brass doesn’t seem terribly enthralled by the other options on the trade market, including the Mariners’ Mike Sweeney and the Cubs’ Kevin Millar.