Tales of Feliz, Bard figure to scare off future starting conversions

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If the Reds were still thinking of putting Aroldis Chapman into the rotation next year, today’s announcement will surely give them pause.

Former Rangers closer Neftali Feliz will undergo Tommy John surgery and miss most or all of 2013 after being diagnosed with a torn UCL in his elbow. It means two of this year’s three big relief-to-starting pitching conversions have gone awry, as Daniel Bard is currently trying to figure things out back in the pen at Triple-A Pawtucket.

For what it’s worth, the third has been a huge success, what with Chris Sale pitching in the All-Star Game for the White Sox. However, that came with a hiccup, as concerns about his elbow prompted the White Sox to shift Sale back to the pen briefly in May. It was thought to be a permanent conversion, with Sale going into the closer’s role, but the left-hander was able to talk them out of it.

Personally, I’ve always felt that midseason relief-to-SP conversions were a bad idea. The Braves are actually trying that again with Kris Medlen now, even though the same switch two years ago likely led to his need for Tommy John surgery. The Padres tried it with Andrew Cashner this year, and he quickly landed on the DL, though not with an arm problem.

The Rangers, Red Sox and White Sox all prepared their youngsters as best they could, using them as starters in spring training and going slowly with them. Feliz got off to a nice start after the move, going 3-1 with a 3.16 ERA in 42 2/3 innings, but his elbow put him on the DL in mid-May. Bard was simply horribly inconsistent in going 5-6 with a 5.24 ERA. He had a 34/37 K/BB ratio in 55 innings.

Chapman was the big name some thought might go from the pen to the rotation next year, but he’s been so strong in as a reliever that it’d take a lot of guts for the Reds to make the switch. There aren’t many other youngsters likely to make the move.  The Cubs could try turning Arodys Vizcaino back into a starter next year after getting him from the Braves in Monday’s Paul Maholm-Reed Johnson deal. He’s missed the entire 2012 season following Tommy John surgery. Tampa Bay’s Wade Davis, a starter throughout his career until this year, could be put back into the rotation if traded, but he seems to have come along nicely as a reliever and is probably better off there.

Nationals to reinstate Max Scherzer on Thursday

Max Scherzer
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Some good news for the Nationals today: All-Star hurler Max Scherzer is due back from the injured list this week, this time (hopefully) for good. He’s slated to start during Thursday’s series finale against the Pirates.

It’s been a long road back for the right-hander, who earned his seventh consecutive All-Star designation after heading into the break with a 2.30 ERA, 5.6 fWAR, and a league-leading 7.56 SO/BB rate. An untimely back injury forced him to the injured list in the days leading up to the All-Star Game, however, and he hasn’t returned in any kind of part-time or full-time capacity since.

While Scherzer was originally expected to pitch for the Nationals sometime during their weekend series versus the Brewers, manager Dave Martinez elected to push back his return date by a few days. It’s not clear whether he felt some lingering pain during his 64-pitch simulated start on Saturday or whether the Nationals simply want to play it safe with their ace, but either way, the club apparently feels like Scherzer will be back to full strength before the end of the week.

If so, his return would be a significant asset to the Nationals, who could use a sub-3.00 ERA, 5.0-fWAR starter to help bolster their standing in the NL East. Still, there’s no guarantee that the veteran righty is ready to shoulder a full-time role in Washington’s rotation, nor is it certain that he’ll be able to match his results from the first half of the season. In one start between IL stints last month, he dealt five innings of three-run, two-walk, eight-strikeout ball in an 8-7 loss to the Rockies.