I called it at the beginning of the year. Neftali Feliz has yet to throw a pitch faster than 96. While that's still blistering heat, he is used to throwing 100-plus mph. He is in the low-90s consistently, which, for the Rookie of the Year and All-Star, is awful.
Today, the Texas Rangers put him on the 15-day DL.
With the Rangers losing ground in a pitching dominated AL West, they need their bullpen more than ever. They've lost the last three series in a row, and at one point, the lead in the division.
General manager Jon Daniels seems to think it's not a big deal.
"If he was 33 instead of 23, we may treat it a little differently," Daniels said, "but given his age and what he means to the club, we're going to play this one on the safe side, relatively conservatively. We very easily could have just given him a couple of days off and see how it goes. But we didn't want to take any chances here."
This is a very significant injury to the Rangers bullpen. It's magnified much more when you look at the rest of the bullpens' stats thus far.
With Alexi Ogando in the rotation for the injured Tommy Hunter, the bullpen has six right-handed pitchers consisting of Feliz, Darren O'Day, Pedro Strop, Mason Tobin, Mark Lowe and Dave Bush.
Feliz and Tobin are on the DL, cutting that list to four.
Lowe was sent down to Triple-A Round Rock, making it three.
O'Day has pitched in seven games, giving up six hits and walking four. This combined with a subpar spring training leaves very little faith in the once reliable sub-mariner. He is leaving balls up in the zone, and they are being driven far.
Bush has an ERA that doesn't tell the truth about his performance. He's had two appearances, five innings pitched, giving up five hits and walking four.
This brings us to our last RHP in the Ranger bullpen—Pedro Strope. He's put up great numbers, but is he reliable? At the young age of 25, he's only got 23 big league innings under his belt. He's struck out seven and walked six in 5.1 innings this year, but he's virtually unproven. The Rangers can't rely on Strope to pick up the slack the rest of the right-handers have given him, and from the left side, well, the Rangers just look old.
What is less reassuring is Brandon Webb looking to come back from injury. He's going to have to be the savior of the 'pen when he returns. I'm not ready to put all my eggs in his basket (no pun intended, being Easter weekend.)
The state of the bullpen is not looking very bright in Texas. They can only hope that Feliz won't be on the DL for long.