Neftali Feliz went back and forth on whether he actually wanted to move to the rotation after saving 40 games as a rookie closer last season, but now it’s a moot point: T.R. Sullivan of MLB.com reports that Feliz will remain in the bullpen.
He’ll be joined there by fellow flame-thrower Alexi Ogando, whose spring rotation tryout also resulted in the Rangers deciding against changing his role. Feliz, unlike Ogando, was actually a full-time starter for most of his time in the minors, but at this point his odds of ever leaving the bullpen are pretty slim.
It’s possible that the Rangers could pursue a veteran closer this offseason and then decide the bullpen is more able to withstand the loss of Feliz next season, but by then he’ll have gone nearly three years without starting regularly and, if he has another outstanding season as a closer, the fan and media sentiment to keep him as a reliever will be even stronger. Which is a shame. Moving a 23-year-old pitcher to the bullpen full time is something teams should do only after they conclude that he’s not capable of being an impact starter and that verdict certainly hasn’t been reached with Feliz.
Generally speaking a very good starter is simply more valuable than a great closer and it’d be nice to see what Feliz could do in a 200-inning role before locking him into a 70-inning role, especially since manager Ron Washington repeatedly failed to get Feliz into tight games throughout the playoffs and resorted to bringing him into blowouts just to get his best reliever a grand total of seven innings in 16 postseason games. And while keeping Feliz as a reliever makes the Rangers’ bullpen significantly stronger, it also means the starting rotation will include guys like Tommy Hunter and Matt Harrison throwing three times as many innings.