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.
Athletics right-hander Jharel Cotton will undergo Tommy John surgery, per an announcement on Saturday. Cotton initially experienced some elbow soreness during a Cactus League start earlier this week and was officially diagnosed with a strained ulnar collateral ligament and strained flexor muscle on Thursday. He’ll be out of commission until 2019 at the earliest.
This isn’t the first time Cotton has dealt with elbow issues. According to MLB.com’s Jane Lee, he had screws inserted in his right elbow after sustaining a stress fracture in 2013 and suffered some minor elbow discomfort again last fall. Prior to his diagnosis, the 24-year-old was poised for his third run with the A’s in 2018. He pitched his first full season with the club in 2017, turning in a 5.58 ERA, 3.7 BB/9 and 7.3 SO/9 in 24 starts and 129 innings.
Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle adds that the team is open to adding pitching depth this spring, though they’ll wait to see if the price goes down on some free agents first. Barring that, right-handed long reliever Andrew Triggs could be tabbed to fill the fifth spot in the rotation.