Does Neftali Feliz have a chance to start?

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I hate it when awesome young pitchers who started in the minor leagues are turned into big league relievers and then everyone talks about how much better suited they are for the bullpen. Of course they’re dominant out of the pen! almost every pitcher is better out of the pen. They can throw harder. They don’t have to face as many guys. They don’t have to face the same guys more than once. They can ignore their shakier pitches.  Making a good starter into a great reliever is no big trick if all you want to do is make a great reliever.

I’ve been particularly worried about this happening in the case of Neftali Feliz, who showed in the minors that, if given the chance, he can be an effective starting pitcher.  So, when the Rangers didn’t get Cliff Lee my first thought was “Great! Now the chances of Neftali Feliz starting are better!”

Of course, when they traded Frank Francisco yesterday I thought “Bummer! Now they’re more likely to keep him in the pen!”  Thankfully Rangers’ assistant GM Thad Levine was on my buddy Mike Ferrin’s show on SiriusXM last night to clarify matters:

Ferrin: “You lose a key component in your bullpen in Frank Francisco, a big strike out guy, one of your bridges to the ninth inning.  Does this move impact where Neftali Feliz starts the season at all or is the plan still to have him go to spring training to compete for a rotation spot?”

Levine: “[Neftali Feliz] is going to come into spring training stretched out as a starter.  He’ll get every opportunity to compete for a rotation spot.  Probably there’s a little bit more onus now on him really wowing us in spring training to inspire the move but we feel – with the likes of Mark Lowe, maybe Alexi Ogando as the next young up-and-coming power arm out of our pen, and then we certainly have two very strong veterans in Darren Oliver and Arthur Rhodes – we’ve got the makings of a very formidable back end of the bullpen.  And we’re very open-minded to Feliz starting the year in the rotation.  He’s going to have to be awful impressive because I think our manager sure likes him pitching the last three outs of the game.”

Well, that’s not really any more clear.  All I can hope is that Ron Washington’s love of those “last three outs of the game” three times a week doesn’t trump what’s best for the first 21 outs of the game every five days.

Phillies, Red Sox interested in Carlos Santana

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The Phillies and Red Sox appear intent on pursuing free agent first baseman Carlos Santana, MLB Network’s Jon Morosi reports. Santana rejected a one-year, $17.4 million qualifying offer from the Indians on Thursday and is expected to draw widespread interest on the market this winter. The Mets, Mariners, Angels and Indians could make a play for the infielder, though no serious offers have been made this early in the offseason.

Santana, 31, is coming off of a seven-year track with the Indians. He batted .259/.363/.455 with 23 home runs and 3.0 fWAR last season, making 2017 the fourth-most valuable year of his career to date. Although he was primarily stationed at first base over the last year, he could step back into a hybrid first base/DH role with the Red Sox, who are hurting for infield depth with Hanley Ramirez still working his way back from shoulder surgery.

As for Santana’s other suitors, the Mariners are far less likely to pursue a deal after trading for Ryon Healy last Wednesday. Neither the Mets nor the Phillies have a DH spot to offer the veteran infielder, and the Phillies’ Rhys Hoskins appears to be blocking the way at first base. Then again, Santana may not find a more enticing offer outside of Cleveland, where Edwin Encarnacion might otherwise be the club’s best option at first base. During the GM meetings, Indians’ GM Mike Chernoff said he “love to have both [Santana and Jay Bruce] back” in 2018, but hasn’t backed up that love with any contract talks just yet.