Texas Rangers: If Neftali Feliz Starts, Who Closes for the Team?

Adam BernacchioAnalyst IIIMarch 11, 2011

SURPRISE, AZ - FEBRUARY 18:  Neftali Feliz #30 of the Texas Rangers gets ready to deliver a pitch at Surprise Stadium on February 18, 2011 in Surprise, Arizona.  (Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images)
Norm Hall/Getty Images

There are a lot of signs pointing to RHP Neftali Feliz starting for the Texas Rangers in 2011. The Rangers are stretching Feliz out this spring, and he has learned yet another pitch—a cut fastball.

Feliz now throws a fastball, cut fastball, curve and changeup. Most relievers don’t throw that many pitchers.

The Rangers will have a decision to make in the next couple of weeks on whether to make Feliz a full-time starter. The question is: if the Rangers decide to put Feliz in the rotation, who closes for them in 2011?

The first option for the Rangers is the famed “bullpen by committee” approach. I have never been a fan of this option because it rarely works, but it might not be such a bad idea for the Rangers. They might actually have the pitchers to pull this off.

They have Darren O’Day, a submarine right-handed pitcher, who held right-handed batters to a .181 average and a .542 OPS in 164 plate appearances. He also struck out 7.6 right-handed batters per nine innings.

Ron Washington could use O’Day in the ninth against the righties and then bring in lefties Darren Oliver or the newly acquired Arthur Rhodes. Oliver held lefties to a .529 OPS last season and Rhodes struck out 9.9 left-handed batters per nine.

Mixing and matching O’Day, Oliver and Rhodes could work out for Washington and the Rangers if they play their cards right.

If Washington wants to go with the one-man show for a closer, he has a couple of options. Mark Lowe or Alexi Ogando might be Washington’s best bet if he wants to have one guy be the man in the ninth.

Ogando came onto the scene last year for the Rangers and threw some serious smoke. Ogando has a 96 mph fastball and had a 1.30 ERA in 41.2 IP in 2010. However, despite throwing darts, Ogando doesn’t always know where those darts are going.

Ogando walked 3.5 batters per nine last year, and if Washington wants to have some Rolaids moments throughout 2011, he’ll have them with Ogando closing.

Lowe came over to the Rangers in the Cliff Lee trade last July and pitched a grand total of three innings in 2010.

If healthy, and so far Lowe has been, the Rangers are hoping he reverts to his 2009 form with the Seattle Mariners, when he had a solid 3.26 ERA and averaged 7.8 K’s per nine in 80 IP.

When healthy, Lowe throws in the mid-90s and features a wicked slider.

If it were up to me, I would make Feliz a starter and then give Lowe the first shot at closing. It’s a lot easier to find a replacement for a closer than it is a No. 1 starter. Feliz can be that No. 1 starter to replace Lee in the rotation.

When the Rangers make their decision, we’ll update this post.

You can follow The Ghost of Moonlight Graham on Twitter @ theghostofmlg

Related

    Yu Darvish (Elbow) Out for the Season

    MLB logo
    MLB

    Yu Darvish (Elbow) Out for the Season

    Adam Wells
    via Bleacher Report

    Rick Renteria Released from Hospital

    MLB logo
    MLB

    Rick Renteria Released from Hospital

    Rob Goldberg
    via Bleacher Report

    Nats Trade Matt Adams to Cardinals

    MLB logo
    MLB

    Nats Trade Matt Adams to Cardinals

    Derrick Goold
    via stltoday.com

    Nats GM: 'These Are Tough Decisions'

    MLB logo
    MLB

    Nats GM: 'These Are Tough Decisions'

    Mark Zuckerman
    via MASNsports