Neftali Feliz will be Rangers' primary setup man

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Ron Washington just confirmed that Neftali Feliz will be the Rangers’ eighth-inning setup man in front of closer Frank Francisco.
Feliz established himself as an elite starter prospect in the minors, but joined the Rangers’ bullpen for his big-league debut last August and was nearly unhittable down the stretch, tossing 31 innings with a 1.74 ERA, .124 opponents’ batting average, and 39/8 K/BB ratio.
During the offseason the Rangers’ brass seemed unclear about whether they wanted Feliz to remain in the bullpen or go back to starting again. Early on in spring training they talked about him being a candidate for the rotation, but eventually that notion faded.
At just 22 years old Feliz seemingly deserves at least a chance to show that he can be dominant for 200 innings per season as a starter rather than 75 innings per season as a reliever, but because Texas isn’t New York you won’t hear much Joba Chamberlain-type uproar either way.
Whatever role he ends up filling, Feliz’s presence is a big part of why I picked the Rangers to win their first division title since way back in 1999. Their rotation is shaky, particularly if Rich Harden fails to stay healthy again, but the lineup should do plenty of damage and the late-inning duo of Francisco and Feliz is among the most overpowering in baseball.

Martin Maldonado and Willson Contreras say they’re willing to pay fines rather than follow new mound visit rule

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On Monday, Major League Baseball announced some changes aimed at improving the game’s pace of play, something that has been a pet cause for commissioner Rob Manfred. Among the changes was a limit on mound visits whether from managers and coaches, the catcher, or other defenders. Each team will have six non-pitching change mound visits per game and one additional visit each inning in extra innings. Craig wrote more in depth on the changes here if you happened to miss it.

Angels catcher Martin Maldonado says he is going to do what’s necessary to stay on the same page with his pitchers. Via Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register, Maldonado said, “If the game is on the line, I’m going to go out there. If we’re at six [visits], and it’s going to be the seventh, I’m going to go out there, even if I have to pay a fine. I’m there for the pitchers.”

Cubs catcher Willson Contreras said as much on Tuesday. Per Josh Frydman of WGN News, Contreras said, “What about if you have a tight game and you have to go out there? They can’t say anything about that, that’s my team and we just care about wins. If they’re going to fine me about number seven mound visit, I’ll pay the price.”

Exhibition games haven’t even started yet, but two notable backstops — the lesser-known Maldonado won a Gold Glove last year — are clearly not happy with the rule change. As Craig alluded to in his article yesterday, arguments between catchers and umpires (and, subsequently, managers and umpires) are probably going to become more frequent, which would likely end up nullifying any pace of play improvements.