Ron Washington is “very committed” to giving Neftali Feliz the chance to start

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Neftali Feliz made his spring training debut yesterday as a starter, throwing two scoreless innings against the Indians, and afterward manager Ron Washington told T.R. Sullivan of MLB.com that the Rangers “are very committed to giving him the opportunity” to join the rotation.

Feliz was primarily a starter in the minors, establishing himself as one of the top pitching prospects in baseball, but shifted to relief at Triple-A in preparation for a mid-2009 call-up to the majors and has been in the Rangers’ bullpen ever since.

He won Rookie of the Year honors last season by saving 40 games with a 2.73 ERA and 71 strikeouts in 69 innings, but the Rangers are smartly trying to determine if he can make a big impact in a 200-inning role before locking the 23-year-old into a 70-inning role for the rest of his career, particularly after Washington’s rigid closer usage left Feliz without much of an impact during their run to the World Series.

Feliz struggled with his command yesterday and will have to re-adjust to relying on his off-speed pitches after throwing 83 percent fastballs as a reliever last season, but just two years ago Baseball America named him the 10th-best prospect in baseball as a starter. Washington noted that the attempted transition “is going to be a work in progress,” but the Rangers are doing the right thing by giving Feliz an opportunity to be a top-of-the-rotation starter. After all, he can always move back to the bullpen.

Phillies to induct Bobby Abreu to Wall of Fame

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The Phillies announced on Wednesday that former outfielder Bobby Abreu will be inducted into the team’s Wall of Fame this summer. The ceremony will take place on Saturday, August 3 as part of the club’s alumni weekend festivities.

Abreu, 45, went to the Phillies in a November 18, 1997 trade with the then-Devil Rays that sent shortstop Kevin Stocker to Tampa. Abreu somehow only made two All-Star teams while in Philly. Overall, he hit .303/.416/.513 with 195 homers, 814 RBI, 891 runs scored, and 254 stolen bases in 1,353 games with the Phillies. Abreu ranks sixth all-time among Phillies in career Wins Above Replacement (47.2), fourth in on-base percentage (.416), seventh in slugging percentage (.513), second in OPS (.928), 10th in runs scored (891), fourth in doubles (348), second in walks (947), and seventh in stolen bases.

Perhaps Abreu’s most noteworthy accomplishment as a Phillie was winning the 2005 Home Run Derby at Comerica Park in Detroit. Abreu hit 24 home runs in the first round and finished with 41 total, both records at the time. That is his most noteworthy accomplishment as, through no fault of his own, the Phillies never made playoffs during his tenure from 1998-06.

Abreu’s tenure came to an end on July 30, 2006, when the club packaged him with pitcher Cory Lidle and sent them to the Yankees in exchange for Matt Smith, Carlos Monasterios, C.J. Henry, and Jesús Sánchez. Obviously, not a trade that worked out well for the Phillies. Abreu played through his age-40 season, spending time with the Angels, Dodgers, and Mets along with the Yankees. He retired with 60 career WAR, per baseball Reference, as well as a .291/.395/.475 batting line, 288 home runs, 1,363 RBI, 1,453 runs scored, and 400 stolen bases.

Phillies fans have always criminally underrated Abreu. He was viewed as lazy and uncaring, in part due to racism and in part due to a perceived aversion to outfield walls. Abreu’s induction into the Phillies’ Wall of Fame is a long time coming, but it will also likely spur a lot of debate on sports talk radio in the months leading up to it.