Rockies 6, Rangers 1
SURPRISE, Ariz. (AP)
As a closer, Neftali Feliz needed a fastball and velocity more than finesse and defense.
Not so as a starter.
Feliz used his fastball early before relying on his slider and changeup to escape trouble twice, giving up a run in three innings of the Texas Rangers' 6-1 loss to the Colorado Rockies split squad Wednesday.
''I felt comfortable,'' said Feliz, who allowed four hits and struck out three. ''I was trying to hit my spots and I did it. You have to feel confident.''
Feliz started strong, striking out Eric Young Jr. on three pitches and then striking out two of the next three batters, primarily using his blazing fastball.
But when the Rockies hitters started settling in and five of seven batters reached base, Feliz went to his secondary pitches to induce inning-ending double plays in the second and third to limit the damage.
''You can't rely only on your fastball,'' Feliz said. ''You have to be comfortable with any pitches you can use to get outs.''
Feliz was a starter in the minors before earning the closer's role the past two seasons. Last spring, the team flirted with dropping Feliz into the rotation before moving him back to the bullpen midway through camp.
''I appreciate the team giving me the chance because it always was my dream to be a starter in the major leagues,'' Feliz said. ''You stay more with your teammates in the game, you think more about what you have to do and the adrenaline goes even higher because you're going to be in the game longer.''
Feliz now is throwing four pitches consistently - a fastball, curve, slider and changeup - and Texas manager Ron Washington said that's enough.
''He doesn't need seven pitches . cuttin', sinkin', splittin','' Washington said with a laugh.
Feliz also received some help from his outfielders. Marco Scutaro lifted a high fly ball that Josh Hamilton pulled back from over the left field bullpen wall in the first.
The scene was replayed in the third when Nelson Cruz made a leaping catch of Tim Wheeler's fly to right inches in front of the top of the wall.
Hamilton left the game one inning after his defensive gem when he jammed his right heel stopping himself after chasing a double down the line by Todd Helton.
Helton finished 2 for 3 with two doubles and an RBI, and Jordan Pacheco went 3 for 3 with three runs driven in.
Rockies right-hander Tyler Chatwood made a strong statement in his bid for a spot at the tail end of the Colorado rotation.
Chatwood held the Rangers to one run on four hits. He walked one, struck out two and threw 30 of 50 pitches for strikes.
''Early on I was getting ahead of the hitters and just kind of not letting them battle back in the counts,'' said Chatwood, who faced Texas a handful of times last season while with the Los Angeles Angels. ''Later I was falling behind but trying to battle back and I made some good pitches when I needed to.''
Rangers second baseman Ian Kinsler returned to the lineup after missing three games with stiffness in his lower back and had two of the Rangers' six hits.
NOTES: Chatwood got some defensive help of his own when Scutaro caught Kinsler too far past third base after Elvis Andrus' single in the third and started an inning-ending rundown. . Hamilton was icing his heel in the clubhouse and is listed as day-to-day. . Rangers C Mike Napoli missed his fourth straight game with a strained left groin muscle. Napoli likely will DH when he returns rather than move immediately behind the plate. . Rockies 3B Casey Blake sat out his third straight game with a stiff neck.