Neftali Feliz still has a long road ahead of him in his rehab from Tommy John surgery, but he took an encouraging step forward this morning. Brad Townsend of the Dallas Morning News reports that Feliz threw soft-toss at the Rangers’ pitching mini-camp, his first time throwing since his surgery last August.
“It felt good,” Feliz said, adding through an interpreter, “I feel strong. I feel good. I’ve been doing what the team tells me to do. I have been lifting weights to get ready and I’m stronger.”
Barring setbacks, the hope is that Feliz could return as soon as July or August. He’d have a better chance of meeting that timeline as a reliever, but the club hasn’t made a formal decision about his role yet.
Feliz was moved to the starting rotation last year and posted a 3.16 ERA and 37/23 K/BB ratio over 42 2/3 innings prior to landing on the disabled list in June. The 24-year-old right-hander avoided arbitration with the Rangers yesterday by agreeing to a one-year, $2.9 million contract.
The Nationals will be many people’s favorites in the NL East this season. Not everything is looking great, however. For example, their ace — defending NL Cy Young winner Max Scherzer — can’t even throw fastballs right now.
The reason: the stress fracture he suffered last August is still causing him problems and Scherzer is unable to use his fastball grip without feeling pain in his right ring finger. He will throw a bullpen session tomorrow, but will only use his secondary stuff.
Scherzer has not been ruled out for Opening Day — the fact that he is throwing some means that his timetable isn’t totally on hold — but you have to figure, at some point, not being able to air things out and use his heater will lead to some problems in his spring training routine.
File this under “man, that would’ve been cool.” Or, if you’re a Tigers fan, file it under “man, that would’ve signaled several years of misery.” However you fall on the matter, however, know that, according to Jon Heyman, the Dodgers inquired about trading for Justin Verlander over the winter.
It never went anywhere, but it’s not like it was silliness for the Dodgers to ask. As you may recall, the Tigers were reported to be willing to listen to offers on any and all players back in November, as GM Al Avila contemplated a tear-down. That never came to pass — the Tigers had a quiet offseason and are keeping the team together to make another run at the playoffs with the Verlander/Miguel Cabrera core — but it couldn’t hurt to ask.
Verlander, who is coming off a resurgent season which saw him return to form as one of baseball’s best pitchers, has 10-5 rights, allowing him to veto any trade. He’s married to an actress/model, however, owns a home in L.A., and the Dodgers are a clear contender, so there’s a good chance he would’ve allowed such a trade to happen. Heck, dude even loves pitchers batting, so a chance to do it all the time would be right up his alley.
The bigger issue likely would’ve been Verlander’s $28 million salary. The Dodgers already pay the luxury tax so taking on that commitment would cost them more than the sticker price. And, of course, if the Tigers are going to ever give up one of the best players in franchise history, it would take the motherlode of prospects to do it.
So, no, a Verlander-to-L.A. trade wasn’t ever a strong possibility. But even the slight possibility seems exciting in hindsight. It was a boring as hell offseason.