Feliz ready to reclaim role as Rangers closer
FEB 17, 2014 4:45p ET
Texas Rangers manager Ron Washington made it clear Monday morning that he hasn't decided who will be the team's closer this season.
Neftali Feliz plans to do everything he can to make Washington's decision an easy one.
The team's closer in 2010 and 2011 is determined to get that role back after having his bid to become a starter in 2012 derailed by Tommy John surgery that cost him most of the 2013 season.
"I've done it before," Feliz said. "I can do it right now. Just have confidence in yourself. It's something I've done in the past and something I can do again."
Feliz, 25, has competition for that spot from another former closer who had his 2013 season curtailed by Tommy John surgery in Joakim Soria.
Feliz believes he's done everything he can to put himself in position to reclaim his job. He pitched in 10 games in the Dominican Winter League, going 1-1 with a 2.79 ERA. General manager Jon Daniels said Feliz showed up in Arizona in the best condition he's been in with the Rangers.
He's also focused on closing only. In the past Feliz has waffled about the role he wanted to have in the majors â starting or closing. The Tommy John surgery took starting out of the equation for Feliz for now and he's once again embracing the chance to close.
"He's determined he wants to do it," Daniels said. "The one thing we've seen over the years is the guys have the most success, in my opinion, that make that transition, are the guys that are 100 percent heart into it. He put in a lot of work to get to this point. We'll see this spring."
The Rangers were encouraged by what they saw out of Feliz this winter. He pitched in just six games for the Rangers last year, totaling 4 2/3 innings. But this winter Feliz was nearly back to his pre-injury self, including with his velocity that he said touched 97 to 98 mph this winter. While he's not reaching triple figures on the radar gun like he did when he came up with Texas in 2009, he's not ruling that out either.
"I feel perfect to go," said Feliz. "I felt perfect for my velocity there and I'm ready to go. I think more (velocity) is coming."
Not only is Feliz getting his velocity back, but also his confidence. The next save opportunity he has in the majors will be his first since Game 6 of the 2011 World Series. No one in the Texas clubhouse needs to be reminded of the outcome of that game.
Feliz said he doesn't think about Game 6 because it's pointless. He's living in the present and thinking about the future.
He's also pitched in plenty of games since 2011 and is buoyed by his success this winter.
"It was very important because I didn't have that much of an opportunity at the end of the season last year," he said. "In the Dominican you have a lot of major league players and veterans over there so being able to pitch against them gave me a lot of confidence."
If Feliz does win the closer's job he'll have plenty of support in the Texas clubhouse. That includes new first-base coach Bengie Molina. It was Molina who was catching when Feliz struck out Alex Rodriguez to clinch the team's first-ever trip to the World Series in 2010.
Molina was also the guy who got in Feliz's ear in 2011 when he came to town during the season to pick up his World Series ring at a time when Feliz was struggling to close games.
Molina is still a fan too and believes there's still room for improvement with Feliz.
"Maybe now he can understand a little better how good he can be," Molina said. "While I'm here, that's one of my focuses is to talk to him about relieving and all of his pitches. It's the honest truth, if you're going to be good, you have to use every pitch and that's it."