Rangers prepping Feliz for second-half bullpen role

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eneral manager Jon Daniels announced
this morning that top prospect Neftali Feliz is moving from the
rotation to the bullpen at Triple-A, signaling that the Rangers have
him in their plans as a reliever for the second half.

“We’d like to see if he’s an option to help the major-league club in
that role,” Daniels said. “We still feel he may start for us in the
future, but we’re going to go down this path first.”

Letting young pitchers get their feet wet in the majors as relievers
is never a bad idea and Feliz has averaged under five innings per start
at Triple-A, so if he’s going to help the Rangers down the stretch the
bullpen makes sense. With that said, hopefully Daniels and company
haven’t given up on the notion of Feliz being a starter long term.

In terms of raw stuff Feliz is second-to-none among minor-league pitchers and Baseball America ranked him
as the 10th-best prospect in all of baseball after he posted a 2.69 ERA
with 153 strikeouts in 127 innings between Single-A and Double-A as a
20-year-old in 2008.

Feliz hasn’t been nearly as dominant at Triple-A this season,
posting a 3.86 ERA with shaky control and “only” 55 strikeouts in 60.2
innings, but his performance has actually been exceptional for a
21-year-old in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League where the
average player is five years his senior.

Dodgers top Giants, clinch fifth straight NL West title

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The Dodgers are NL West champions for the fifth time in a row. They clinched with a 4-2 win over the Giants on Friday night, taking their first and only lead on a mammoth record-breaking home run from Cody Bellinger in the third inning.

Rich Hill turned in another quality start, going six innings with five hits, a run and nine strikeouts to keep the Giants at bay. He tacked on an RBI hit of his own, too, lashing a double to left field for his first extra-base hit since 2007.

The Giants, meanwhile, deployed Jeff Samardzija and his 4.42 ERA for 4 1/3 innings. Samardzija was on the hook for the Dodgers’ four-run spread in the third and took his 15th loss of the season. Pablo Sandoval came through with a solo home run in the ninth, but the rest of San Francisco’s offense wasn’t so lucky against Kenley Jansen, who struck out the side to clinch the game — and the division.

After Friday’s showstopper, the Dodgers are just two wins away from their first 100-win season since 1974. If they win the remaining eight games of the season, they’ll beat out the 1953 Brooklyn Dodgers for the most wins in franchise history.

Watch: Cody Bellinger breaks NL rookie home run record

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Cody Bellinger helped the Dodgers to their first lead on Friday night, going deep for his 39th home run of the season and setting a new National League rookie home run record in the process. With two on and two out in the third inning, the Dodgers’ slugger launched a 2-1 pitch from the Giants’ Jeff Samardzija, skimming the right field fence to give the team a three-run cushion:

The three-run bomb was Bellinger’s sixth of the season. In what is undoubtedly a Rookie of the Year award-worthy campaign, he’s logged 21 solo shots, 11 two-run blasts and a single grand slam. His historic home run topped former NL rookie leaders Frank Robinson and Wally Berger, at 38 homers apiece.

The Dodgers need to stay on top of the Giants to clinch the NL West or, barring that, have the Marlins pull off a win over the Diamondbacks. They currently lead the Giants 4-1 in the bottom of the fifth inning. The Marlins, meanwhile, are staying just ahead of the D-backs with a 9-7 lead in the top of the sixth.