My assumption has been that Neftali Feliz is on board with the Rangers giving him an opportunity to join the rotation this season, but today the reigning Rookie of the Year told Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News that he’d prefer to remain a reliever:
I’m comfortable there and I’ve done it before at this level and I know what it takes. What I went through last year made me feel more comfortable with the role. I experienced it at a very high level. But if I start, I’ll get myself into a routine and get comfortable with it again. If I start, I’m not going to hold back or not go at it all the way. I’m going to do what I do. If I end up starting, I will get into a routine and I will get more comfortable with it. It’s not that I’m not comfortable. I just haven’t done it in a while.
Feliz is basically saying he’ll do the best job he can in whatever role the Rangers ask him to fill, which is definitely the right approach to take with manager Ron Washington “very committed” to seeing what he can do as a starter. Still, this is a much different situation that career-long reliever C.J. Wilson requesting a chance to be a starter last spring and the Rangers were already facing a tough enough time convincing fans and media members that stretching out Feliz is the right move.
With that said, Grant indicates Feliz’s stated preference for remaining in the bullpen may not be especially strong and he’s obviously open to the switch after spending most of his minor-league career as a starter. If he can be a No. 1 or even No. 2 starter the Rangers are absolutely better off using Feliz in a 200-inning role than in a 70-inning role, but that isn’t something they’ll be able to determine from a handful of spring training starts and in the meantime any struggles could lead to Feliz voicing his preference more strongly.
My guess is he remains a closer.