Now that Neftali Feliz is apparently on board with the front office wanting to make him a starter Ron Washington is facing the very real possibility of being without his 40-save closer from last season and the manager told Tim MacMahon of ESPNDallas.com that he’d expect the Rangers to acquire a veteran reliever to fill the role:
I have confidence in Jon Daniels and our scouts. If that’s the case, I’m 100 percent sure they’ll go out there and find somebody to close ballgames down for us. Who do we have in our bullpen that’s closed ballgames down? We ain’t talking about “might be able to.” We need somebody that’s bona fide to close ballgames down. But, like I said, if we need to stay in-house, we’ll figure that out.
What’s interesting about Washington’s push for an experienced closer is that Feliz had zero experience as a closer before saving a rookie-record 40 games as a 22-year-old. In fact, he was a full-time starter in the minors as recently as the middle of 2009 and came into last season with two career saves. Managers’ desire for “an experienced closer” is so strong that the guy who just went to the World Series with a 22-year-old ex-starter as a rookie closer isn’t even open to the idea of letting another inexperienced guy get first crack at the gig.
Arthur Rhodes and Darren Oliver certainly meet any qualification for relief experience, but neither of them has been a full-time closer and another in-house candidate, right-hander Mark Lowe, has just four career saves. Setting aside all the “experienced closer” stuff, the most obvious candidate to me is Alexi Ogando, who has overpowering raw stuff and posted a 1.30 ERA with a 39/16 K/BB ratio in 42 innings as a rookie. And soon enough hard-throwing prospect Tanner Scheppers will be ready for a call-up.
In other words, unless Washington is absolutely insistent on handing ninth-inning duties to someone with a significant number of career saves the Rangers are probably better off trusting another inexperienced guy to come through just like Feliz did last season.