Print and Go Back ESPN.com: Texas Rangers [Print without images]

Thursday, February 9, 2012
Surprise positional outlook: No. 5 starter

By Richard Durrett

We've come to the end of our starting rotation outlooks and it's a former closer who we'll discuss today.

Neftali Feliz
The Rangers want to find out this season whether Neftali Feliz can be an effective starter.
Today's position: No. 5 starter

The Rangers want to find out this season whether Neftali Feliz can start. They told him shortly after the season ended that he'd be moving into the rotation and to prepare for a spot. GM Jon Daniels said he wanted to avoid all the questions during spring training about if Feliz would make the rotation. So he heads to spring training with a place in the rotation.

Feliz's season ended with a national TV audience watching in Game 6 of the World Series. You know the details, but after Feliz gave up the two-out, two-strike hit to tie the score, the coaching staff felt he wasn't in any condition to pitch the 10th inning. The Rangers ended up losing in 11 innings and Feliz walked from the clubhouse to the bus with his head down.

Now, months after that event, Feliz says he's focused on starting and helping the team in the rotation. He said at Rangers FanFest in January that the bottom of the ninth in Game 6 was something that "really, really upset me a lot."

RANGERS POSITION OUTLOOK
Jan. 23: Catcher
Jan. 24: First base
Jan. 25: Second base
Jan. 26: Third base
Jan. 27: Shortstop
Jan. 30: Left field
Jan. 31: Center field
Feb. 1: Right field
Feb. 2: DH/Utility
Feb. 3: Bench
Feb. 6: No. 1 starter
Feb. 7: No. 2 starter
Feb. 8: No. 3 starter
Feb. 9: No. 4 starter
Feb. 10: No. 5 starter
Feb. 13: Middle/long relief
Feb. 14: Late-inning relief
Feb. 15: Coaches
Feb. 16: Manager
Feb. 17: Front office
"But I'm not mad at myself because I threw my pitch," said Feliz, who surrendered the game-tying double off the bat of David Freese after getting within one strike of the championship. "It just got hit."

Feliz said he's still thought about that night, but has vowed to move on. He'll get a chance now with a new role on the Rangers as he attempts to prove he can start.

The Rangers, in an effort to help prepare Feliz for the challenge, organized a meeting with Pedro Martinez. Feliz talked with Martinez earlier this offseason and said he was planning on meeting him again so that Martinez could watch him pitch and give him some pointers.

"Coming form a guy like him who I always admired as a kid, I took it very seriously," Feliz said. "He gave me advice about mental things and toughness. He was sincere with me. He said 'Be patient and don't get anxious. You'll get adjusted to it.'"

Feliz must show he can handle the workload of a starter. That means hard work in the offseason and staying in shape during the season. Feliz has that 100 mph fastball and the ability to change speeds. He said his slider and changeup must be more effective and that will be a focus this spring.

One of the biggest spring training stories will be Feliz's progress and if that electric fastball, combined with his secondary stuff, will be good enough to be a successful starter. We'll get our first sense of that in a few weeks.