Neftali Feliz replaces Frank Francisco as Rangers closer … for now

Leave a comment

Early on in spring training the Rangers were deciding whether to use Neftali Feliz as a starter or a reliever, but suddenly the 22-year-old phenom has been thrust into the closer role following two blown saves from Frank Francisco.
Ron Washington made it clear that the switch is intended to be short term, saying: “We need to give him some time to get things together. Frankie will be the closer for the Texas Rangers.”
Francisco began last year by converting 11-of-11 save chances in 17.2 scoreless innings, but since then he has a 7.22 ERA in 33.2 innings while blowing six saves in 20 chances. Between arm problems and extreme fly-ball tendencies Francisco is hardly reliable even if he reclaims the gig and if Feliz ends up staying in the bullpen long term he’s destined for ninth-inning duties eventually anyway.
In other words, don’t presume they’ll switch back.

Giants remove pitching coach Dave Righetti

Getty Images
2 Comments

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.