Tanner Scheppers has expressed his interest in replacing Joe Nathan as the Rangers’ closer in 2014, but T.R. Sullivan of MLB.com pegs Neftali Feliz as the favorite to return to his former role:
Joe Nathan is now with the Tigers and the Rangers will have a new closer in 2014. They will likely settle the issue by going back to the old closer. Neftali Feliz had the job during the World Series years of 2010-11 before being derailed by Tommy John elbow reconstruction surgery.
Feliz appears to be healthy again, which puts him in position to be the Rangers’ closer coming out of Spring Training. If Feliz is not ready, the Rangers could turn to premier setup reliever Tanner Scheppers or former Royals All-Star closer Joakim Soria. All are potentially good options but right now the job is Feliz’s to lose.
Feliz began his major league career as a reliever and notched 72 saves in the closer role from 2010-2011, but the Rangers moved him to the rotation in 2012. However, the experiment quickly backfired, as he made just seven starts and one relief appearance prior to blowing out his elbow and undergoing season-ending Tommy John surgery. The 25-year-old right-hander spent most of 2013 in rehab mode, eventually tossing 4 1/3 scoreless innings as a September call-up. It sounds like the Rangers have moved on from the idea of using Feliz as a starter, but assuming his velocity bounces back, he would be a logical and cost-effective replacement for Nathan.
Cubs’ manager Joe Maddon hasn’t selected a fifth starter for his 2017 rotation yet, but told reporters that he could envision left-handers Brett Anderson and Mike Montgomery sharing the spot throughout the year. Neither pitcher was stretched out to the full 200-inning threshold last year, Maddon added, and suggested that the two could alternate innings out of the rotation and bullpen as needed (via MLB.com’s Carrie Muskat).
Anderson, 29, was acquired by the Cubs in January on a $3.5 million deal. He’s coming off a rough 2016, during which he underwent back surgery and missed all but 11 1/3 innings of his last season with the Dodgers. His last full, healthy year in the majors yielded a 3.69 ERA, 2.3 BB/9 and 5.8 SO/9 over 180 1/3 innings with Los Angeles in 2015.
Montgomery, meanwhile, is vying for a rotation spot after pitching almost exclusively from the bullpen during the second half of the Cubs’ 2016 run. The 27-year-old lefty put up a 2.82 ERA, 4.7 BB/9 and 8.9 SO/9 over 38 1/3 innings for Chicago last year, returning in the postseason to post a 3.14 ERA during the Cubs’ championship finish.
Maddon also mentioned the possibility of throwing a sixth starter into the mix, which would help prevent his other starters from getting overworked too early in the year. Either way, Anderson and Montgomery are expected to get a lot of looks early in spring training as rotation spots are finalized in the weeks leading up to Opening Day.
Orioles’ center fielder Michael Bourn is expected to be sidelined for four weeks while he rehabs a broken ring finger on his right hand, according to reports from the Baltimore Sun’s Peter Schmuck. Bourn broke the finger while playing catch with a football after a spring training workout.
The veteran outfielder re-signed with the club earlier this week on a minor league deal and was prepared to compete for a bench role this season. He’s in line to receive a $2 million salary if he makes the major league roster and can make an additional $3.5 million in incentives based on a set number of plate appearances. Now, however, his chances of cracking the roster out of spring training look considerably diminished, as his current timetable gives him an approximate return date of March 25 if all goes well.
Bourn had an impressive, if short-lived run with the Orioles following his trade to Baltimore last August, batting .283/.358/.435 with two home runs and a .793 OPS in 55 PA. While still somewhat removed from the totals that brought him an All-Star nod with the Braves in 2012, his defensive chops should give the Orioles some depth in center once he’s healthy again.