(Image via Keith Allison)
Every time a young prospect break into the big leagues as a late inning reliever, a cold sweat runs down my back. While the team may claim to only be easing the pitcher into the big leagues, if successful it makes it massively more difficult to sell re-transitioning them to the rotation, especially if it doesn’t immediately take. And then where would Major League Baseball be, a league filled with 25 year-olds pitching 60 innings a year with broken down, old men taking the majority of the innings? It would be madness.
With Neftali Feliz making his first career start last night, I was ecstatic. Even if the last two years of bullpen work will ruin Feliz’s chances of wielding an assortment of above-average breaking balls or it turns out his arm doesn’t havet have 200 innings a year in it, you need to try. The Guiness World Records exist because of mankind’s valiant efforts in the face of adversity.
Against the Mariners, Feliz lasted seven innings, giving up four hits, two walks, and striking out four as the Rangers won 1-0. Feliz needed 108 pitches or roughly half a month’s work if we’re judging by last year’s standards. Feliz needed to be that sharp, as Blake Beavan nearly matched him going 6.1 innings with the only run coming in off of David Murphy’s RBI single. By the way, David Murphy is hitting .533 this year. Just thought I’d pass that along.
The only problem with Feliz’s start has nothing to do with his pitching at all. Which is a good thing for the Rangers. No, my problem comes down to trust. Last spring when the debate once again flared up over Feliz’s role, Feliz said:
“I spent most of spring training as a starter and I enjoyed it. But I’m a closer now, and God willing I’ll remain a closer the rest of my career. I made the decision that I won’t start anymore … The team has told me that next year I would still have the chance to start, but I don’t want to do it anymore.”
Which is fine and dandy, but then what does one make of this comment after last night’s start:
“It’s a dream come true for me. I was hoping for the moment to become a starter in the major leagues and finally it happened. And I thank the Rangers for making that happen. And here I am.”
Could Feliz simply be saying whatever the team and/or media member be hoping he’ll say? Is Feliz a complex individual whose thoughts and feelings can change on a yearly/nightly/hourly basis? Or is Neftali Feliz a cold-hearted pathological liar who uses his 95 mph fastball to avoid having meaningful human interactions?
And yes, those are the only three options. But if Feliz continues to pitch like he did last night, I don’t think the Rangers will really care.