Texas Rangers: Who Will Have More Saves, Joe Nathan or Neftali Feliz?

Mark SwindellCorrespondent IApril 1, 2012

This should raise some eyebrows.  Hey, wait a second, didn't the Rangers move Neftali Feliz into the rotation?  Yes, they did.  Didn't they sign free-agent closer Joe Nathan this offseason to be the closer since Feliz was moving into the rotation? Yes, they did.  So what gives?

First off, Nathan hasn't done much this spring to make Ranger brass too comfortable in handing him the ball in the ninth inning of a 4-3 game.  Nathan is 0-3 with a bloated 10.29 ERA.  More concerning, opponents are hitting .308 off of him, and his WHIP of 1.57 is way too high to close games out. 

Yes, it's only spring training, but it's not like Nathan was unhittable with the Twins in 2011—last season Nathan sported a 4.84 ERA in 48 games.  That's giving up a little more than a run every other inning.  Closers aren't going to have much success like that.  Hopefully, Nathan is just "working on stuff" this spring, as he claims to be back to 100 percent from the arm injury that cost him the entire 2010 season.

Now to Feliz.  Feliz has saved 72 games out of 81 opportunities the past two seasons. He's 7-for-8 in postseason games, with the one blown save being the nightmare that was Game 6 of the World Series last year. 

They say closers can be found.  Sure, there are the Kevin Greggs, Leo Nunezes and Matt Cappses of the world who can close some games for some spare teams.  But, Feliz is a consistent All-Star closer that found a niche in the back end of games to make up for a lack of pitching repertoire that starting pitchers need to be successful. His move to the rotation resulted in shoulder stiffness, a not-so-sparkling 4.85 ERA and three home runs allowed in just 13 innings of work.

Ranger's manager Ron Washington, GM Jon Daniels and president Nolan Ryan will not mess around very long with the Nathan-closer/Feliz-starter experiment.  With Colby Lewis, Derek Holland, Matt Harrison and Yu Darvish, the Rangers have a formidable four-man rotation.  The fifth spot can be handed to Scott Feldman or a free agent waiting in the wings, like Roy Oswalt.

Look for Feliz to be the closer by mid-May and Nathan to be a seventh-inning type reliever.  When it is all said and done, Feliz will finish the 2012 season with more saves than Joe Nathan.