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.

Jon Gray will start Opening Day for the Rockies

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Manager Bud Black has tabbed Jon Gray to start on Opening Day for the Rockies. That will be Monday, April 3 in Milwaukee against the Brewers in an afternoon contest.

Gray, 25, is starting Opening Day for the first time in his career. He’ll be the sixth different Rockies pitcher to start Opening Day in as many years.

The Rockies and Gray had a bit of a scare on Friday as he left his spring training start with discomfort in his left foot, but everything came up clean in an MRI. He pitched again on Wednesday with no issue.

Last season, Gray went 10-10 with a 4.61 ERA and a 185/59 K/BB ratio in 168 innings. A consensus top prospect entering each of the previous three seasons, Gray surprisingly put up better numbers at Coors Field — the most hitter-friendly park in baseball — than away.

Blake Treinen named Nationals closer

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Today Washington Nationals manager Dusty Baker named Blake Treinen as his closer. Treinen has saved exactly one big league game.

There wasn’t necessarily an obvious choice, however. Last year Washington had Mark Melancon, but with him gone and GM Mike Rizzo’s failure to land a high-profile closer in the offseason, it became a contest between Treinen Shawn Kelley and Koda Glover.

Treinen posted a 2.28 ERA with 31 walks and 63 Ks in 67 innings in 2016. His big improvement last year came against lefties, who had tattooed him in the past. He pitched well this spring as well, but that doesn’t necessarily mean anything.

The Nats are our favorites to win the NL East, but we do have some questions about the pen. Blake Treinen will take the first crack at answering them.