Neftali Feliz has pitched exclusively out of the bullpen since debuting last August and replaced Frank Francisco as the Rangers’ closer earlier this week, but general manager Jon Daniels wrote today in an online chat that the 22-year-old phenom may still end up in the rotation long term:
Going to depend on the makeup of the roster and how Neftali’s developing. Plenty of guys have relieved (or even closed) and then moved back to the rotation (Lowe, Dempster, Smoltz, Wainright, etc.). He’s not even 22 yet and has less than three months in the big leagues. We want him to get some experience under his belt–we have not abandoned the idea of him starting in the future, but that’s not our immediate focus.
Feliz was an elite prospect as a starter in the minors and I’m always of the opinion that young pitchers should be given an extended opportunity to show whether they can thrive for 200 innings per season before being moved to a role that limits them to 70 innings per season.
Getting his feet wet as a reliever isn’t a bad idea, especially given Francisco’s struggles and the bullpen’s overall lack of depth, but hopefully Daniels and the Rangers still have plans for Feliz as a starter.