Texas fans, its breath-holding time – according to Richard Durrett of ESPN Dallas, Neftali Feliz left today’s game after three innings because of “right shoulder stiffness.” Feliz was scheduled to pitch the fourth, but was replaced by Neal Cotts instead.
Because the game was in Mesa, which is not one of the parks that has Pitch F/x installed in Arizona, we can’t compare his velocity in today’s start to his prior spring training outings. However, Durrett notes that the stadium gun had him sitting between 93-95, and his performance seemed okay, as he struck out two batters in three scoreless innings. Both of those are good signs, and this could be nothing more than general spring training aches and pains from a guy getting stretched out after spending last year in the bullpen.
However, the Rangers have the ability to be cautious here. They have the deepest starting staff in baseball, and it wouldn’t be overly challenging for them to let Alexi Ogando or Scott Feldman begin the year in the rotation if Feliz needed more time to get stretched out. The Rangers schedule in April will require them to have a fifth starter from the beginning of the season, but their alternatives mean that Feliz doesn’t necessarily have to be one of those five. They were planning on limiting his innings this season anyway, so giving him some time off at the beginning of the season might not be a bad idea anyway.
Even if this turns out to be nothing, the Rangers have the ability to take it easy with Feliz. They should probably take advantage of their depth, because if Feliz turns out to not be able to handle a full time rotation job, they’ll need guys like Ogando and Feldman to make some starts during the season anyway.
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