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Neftali Feliz's dip in velocity is concerning

8/4/2014

This Rangers season, at least right now, is about the future.

If Neftali Feliz wants involvement with that future he can’t do what occurred to him on Sunday in Cleveland: Diminished velocity on his fastball.

Blown saves happen.

But of Feliz’s 29 pitches, 12 of his 17 fastballs were just 90 mph or above with five below the 90 mph mark.

The Rangers have said Feliz is fully recovered from Tommy John surgery that cost him the 2013 season. He doesn’t have the same blazing fastball of old, when he was a dominant closer three years ago. Feliz has to pitch more, hitting spots, tricking hitters from time-to-time to get people out in the ninth inning.

Moving forward, the Rangers can’t afford to have a closer with diminished velocity on his fastball and one who can’t pitch with confidence.

Feliz’s last outing was July 30, a perfect 1-2-3 ninth inning against the New York Yankees when he earned his second save since taking over the closer’s role for the now-traded Joakim Soria.

Of the seven pitches thrown in that effort, six were fastballs and all were above 90 mph. He even hit 92 mph on pitches to Mark Teixeira and Carlos Beltran.

Feliz had three days off before Sunday’s game against the Indians. You would think he had enough rest.

He didn’t.

“You get rest it means you should be stronger,” manager Ron Washington told Mike Peasley of ESPN 103.3 FM after Sunday’s loss. “I don’t know what’s going on. We’ll find out if something’s wrong.”

This core group of players Adrian Beltre, Elvis Andrus, Yu Darvish, Shin-Soo Choo and Leonys Martin are not going anywhere.

Feliz demands to be with them.

It won’t happen if his arm isn’t up to par.

At this stage of the season, Washington has no choice but to stick with Feliz baring a sudden change in his health. General manager Jon Daniels could move someone else from the farm up here, but that seems a remote possibility.

A bullpen by committee for a team headed to a 100-loss season also seems reasonable.

The answers are not here.

Maybe when the Rangers sort through the mess that was Cleveland and settle on facing the Chicago White Sox in three games, answers about Feliz’s arm will surface.

If not, then there’s just another issue for this Rangers franchise to deal with.