Rangers' Feliz comes out of the bullpen blazing

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feliz-neftali-100329.jpgThe Texas Rangers have decided to keep Neftali Feliz in their bullpen for now instead of putting him in the rotation or priming him in the minors for such a starting role.

It seems Feliz is taking to his relief role just fine, as he hit 100 mph on the radar gun three times and 101 on three other occasions while striking out the side against the Colorado Rockies on Monday.

As Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News reports, Feliz seems pretty darned motivated by a fear of being sent to the minors. Anything to avoid those bus trips!

After a ragged first relief outing of the spring, Neftali Feliz was summoned to manager Ron Washington’s office for a little get together. Feliz’s reaction: He thought he was about to be shipped out to Oklahoma City.

“I saw a couple of guys go in and when they came out, they were packing stuff for the minors,” Feliz said through translator Julio Borbon after blowing away Colorado in the ninth inning Monday. “I wasn’t upset, but I was already thinking about what I needed to do to get back here.”

Turns out that since the Rangers were moving him back to the bullpen, they simply wanted him to start pitching like a reliever, too. In other words, go after people with the fastball until they make him do something else.

The Rangers are planning to use Feliz as their primary setup man from the right side this season, so they’re going to test Feliz and see if he can pitch on back-to-back days, something they didn’t ask of him in his 20-game major league debut last season.

Feliz says he isn’t worried about that, and I suspect he’ll be fine. But you have to wonder if the 21-year-old (22 on May 2) would be better served honing his secondary pitches in Oklahoma City with an eye toward the future. After all, in the show, everyone can hit heat.

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Giants remove pitching coach Dave Righetti

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After 18 years, 12 winning seasons, seven postseason runs and three World Championships, Dave Righetti is no longer a pitching coach for the Giants. He was removed from his post on Saturday, when the team announced a few reassignments as they shake up their coaching staff. Heading into the 2018 season, Righetti will serve as special assistant to general manager Bobby Evans, former bullpen coach Mark Gardner will step into a similar special assistant role to “assist in pitching evaluations,” and former assistant hitting coach Steve Decker will take a special assistant role in baseball operations.

According to MLB.com’s Chris Haft, Righetti was the longest-tenured pitching coach in the big leagues. He helped shape the careers of notable Giants’ aces like Madison Bumgarner, Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain — all Cy Young contenders (and, in Lincecum’s case, a two-time winner) at various points in their careers. He was there to assist Ryan Vogelsong during his stunning mid-career comeback in San Francisco. He helped newcomers like Chris Stratton and Ty Blach flourish even as the team stumbled to the bottom of the division. He was there to take the credit when a sterling rotation clinched the Giants’ 56-year, drought-snapping championship title in 2010 — and, when things went so horribly south in 2017, he took the blame as well.

Hardly anything went right for the Giants’ pitching staff in 2017. Madison Bumgarner was shelved after sustaining a serious shoulder injury in a dirt bike accident, Johnny Cueto couldn’t shake a cluster of blisters on his right hand and Mark Melancon found it difficult to justify a $62 million paycheck after pitching through an arm injury to four blown losses/saves and a 4.50 ERA. It would be a lot for any pitching coach to stay on top of, and given the team’s rapid descent from 2016 postseason contenders to last-place finishers in 2017, it’s not surprising that Evans felt the need to switch things up.

Successors have yet to be named for Righetti, Gardner or Decker, though Murray hears that the Giants could have interest in former major league pitching coach Jim Hickey. NBC Bay Area’s Alex Pavlovic adds that Evans is searching for someone to “put a new voice” on the pitching staff and will likely target someone who, like Righetti, brings considerable experience to the role.