Texas Rangers: Brent Morel
SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Neftali Feliz's focus this spring is his off-speed stuff. To be a successful starter, the 23-year-old can't rely on that very fast fastball.
|Rangers skipper Ron Washington comments on Neftali Feliz's first Cactus League start, as well as his impressions of the rest of the pitching staff. He also explains why he needs Josh Hamilton to stay healthy.
The White Sox beat the Rangers, 6-3.
In his first Cactus League inning of the spring, Feliz's command wasn't there. He wasn't able to get his slider or changeup over for strikes consistently, and hitters waited on the fastball.
White Sox third baseman Brent Morel fell behind 0-2 after watching some fastballs, but then worked the count even before belting a single. Dayan Viciedo hit an off-speed pitch for a double before Adam Dunn crushed a 1-2 fastball (93 mph) over the right-center field wall to give Chicago a 3-0 lead. Feliz did bear down, elevating a fastball at 94 mph to get Tyler Flowers (after getting a swing and miss on a slider earlier in the at-bat) and then striking out Kosuke Fukudome with a slider (85) to end the inning.
But the second inning was a different story. Feliz came back to the mound and looked committed to throwing down in the zone. The command was there and he needed just eight pitches to get three outs (he needed 28 to get through the first).
"I got the ball down and it was better," Feliz said. "I wasn't worried about results."
He threw two sliders to Gordon Beckham that resulted in one swing and miss and a fly out to left field. Feliz started left-handed hitting Dan Johnson off with off-speed stuff before throwing some heat at 92 mph to get a ground ball to second. And Eduardo Escobar grounded out to second on the second pitch he saw, a 91 mph fastball.
"I know there's more in there when I need it," Feliz said.
Feliz figures he can throw the fastball 95 to 97 mph, but isn't doing that now because his focus remains the off-speed stuff.
Dunn dominates: Dunn had a homer off Feliz in the first and then a double off Michael Kirkman in the second. Both hits were on fastballs over the plate. Kirkman's was at 94 mph.
Last year, Dunn hit .159 and had 177 strikeouts. He was particularly ineffective against left-handed pitchers, hitting .064 (94 at-bats) with no homers and 39 strikeouts. In fact, he had just one extra-base hit against lefties in 2011.
Kirkman struggles: The left-hander, a candidate for a bullpen job this spring, gave up three runs on four hits in two innings, including a two-run homer by Beckham. Of the 11 batters Kirkman faced, five were left-handed hitters. They were 2-for-4 with a walk off him, including Dunn's double and a double by Fukudome.
Quick feet: Ian Kinsler went to cover the bag as Alejandro De Aza was on the move from first in the fourth. A ground ball was then hit toward where Kinsler had just vacated. The second baseman quickly scampered back to his left, scooped up the grounder and threw to first to end the fourth inning.
Red-hot SS: Elvis Andrus started his day with yet another hit and then added to it with a double in his final at-bat. He's having a ridiculous first week of spring training and is now 7-for-10 with two doubles and a triple.
Walk in the park: Chicago pitcher Gregory Infante walked three Ranger batters in the fourth before he was lifted. Josh Hamilton led off the inning with a walk and scored on Nelson Cruz's single. Mike Napoli and Mike Olt also walked.
Quick reaction: Olt got his glove up in a hurry to get to a liner hit by Beckham to end the fifth.
Utility infield: Luis Hernandez, one of the utility infield candidates, was 2-for-2 with an RBI and a run scored as he replaced Andrus late in the game.
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