Neftali Feliz expected to take over as Rangers closer following Joakim Soria trade

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Texas traded closer Joakim Soria to Detroit for a pair of prospects and Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News reports that the Rangers will likely turn back to a familiar name to fill the vacant closer role: Neftali Feliz.

Feliz was the Rangers’ closer in 2010 and 2011, saving 74 career games by age 22, but then they tried to make him a starter and Tommy John elbow surgery followed. His comeback hasn’t been a smooth one and Feliz spent the first two months of this season at Triple-A before being called up to Texas in early July.

Since returning he’s posted a nice-looking 2.61 ERA in seven appearances, but a 4/3 K/BB ratio in 10.1 innings tells a much less impressive story for a pitcher who racked up 164 strikeouts in his first 163 innings as a big leaguer. His average fastball velocity is 92.2 miles per hour, compared to 96.3 mph in 2010-2011, so if Feliz does in fact slide back into the closer role there may be some bumps along the way.

Rakuten Golden Eagles sign Jabari Blash

Jabari Blash
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Former Angels outfielder Jabari Blash has signed a one-year deal with the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles of Nippon Professional Baseball, the team announced Friday. Per the Japan Times, the deal is said to be worth around $1.06 million. Blash was released from his contract with the Angels at the end of November.

The 29-year-old outfielder has had a rough go of it in the majors, where he failed to duplicate the promising results he delivered in the minors. While he consistently batted above .250 with 20-30 home runs per season at the Double- and Triple-A level, he petered out in back-to-back gigs with the Padres and Angels and slumped toward a .103/.200/.128 finish across 45 PA for Anaheim in 2018.

The hope, of course, is that the environment in NPB will help him get a better handle on his issues at the plate — in a best case scenario, resulting in a full-scale transformation that could make him more marketable to MLB teams in the future. To that end, Blash expects to be utilized as a cleanup batter in the Eagles’ lineup and will focus on assisting the club as they make a run toward the Japan Series.