ARLINGTON -- Rangers manager Ron Washington wants bullpen help before the Trade Deadline. He also wants closer Neftali Feliz to show more fire and urgency in his job.Washington made his feelings clear on both issues before Wednesday's game with the Twins and the day after Feliz allowed two runs in the ninth inning in a 9-8 loss at the Ballpark in Arlington. "I'd like to see a little more fire. ... I want him to think it's do or die," Washington said. "That's what a closer is. I haven't seen that as consistent as last year. I just don't see the urgency. I'm not saying it's not there, but he's not exuding urgency. Maybe that's his demeanor." Feliz has now blown five save opportunities this season. He had three last year. This season, he has also struck out 6.2 batters per nine innings and allowed opponents to hit .216 off him. He struck out 9.2 batters per nine innings last season, while opponents hit .176 as he took home the American League Rookie of the Year Award. Feliz insisted that any differences from last year have not been brought about by a lack of fire or urgency.
"I think if there is a difference between last year and this year is that last year was my first as a closer," Feliz said. "Now I have experience. To say that I don't have fire ... it's because I feel I have more confidence I can do my job this year. But every time I go out there, I give 100 percent to get three outs."The Rangers have been trying to get help for Feliz in the bullpen, and they are actively engaging the Padres in discussions on both closer Heath Bell and Mike Adams. They have varying degrees of interest in Marlins closer Leo Nunez, Washington setup man Tyler Clippard and Oakland setup reliever Grant Balfour. They know the Athletics might part with Andrew Bailey, but most likely at an exorbitant price. The Rangers pushed hard on outfielder Carlos Beltran before the Mets traded him to the Giants. The Rangers liked Beltran and were intrigued by the possibility of adding his big back to their lineup. They just weren't willing to give up as high of a prospect as the Giants did with pitcher Zack Wheeler. The Rangers' main focus is on the bullpen, and Washington is increasingly itching to get something done before Sunday's 3 p.m. CT non-waiver Trade Deadline. The Rangers' bullpen went into Wednesday's game with a collective 4.52 ERA, third worst in the American League. "Yes we need reinforcements," Washington said. "We're at the Trade Deadline. Everybody in the race is trying to make their team better. Every team in the race needs reinforcements. There are trades going on every day. There were a couple today. Of course we need reinforcements, and the bullpen is a priority." The Rangers' main goal has been acquiring a right-handed setup reliever. They have not been actively looking for a closer. They still trust that job to Feliz, but both Bell and Nunez have obvious experience in that role. Bell seems to be the most likely reliever to be traded, although the Padres will likely take this down to Sunday so they can get the biggest return possible. There are at least a dozen teams looking for relief help, and Bell has always been viewed as the biggest prize this season. Since taking over as the full-time closer for the Padres in 2009, Bell has 118 saves in 129 opportunities, he has a 2.34 ERA and opponents are hitting .217 off him. He is also a Type A free agent after the season. The Rangers also like Adams, who has a 1.17 ERA as Bell's setup reliever. But the Padres appear determined to keep him and let him close once Bell departs. "I would feel happy if they made a trade," Feliz said. "We all want to win and go back to the World Series. If they feel more bullpen [help] is needed, we need to do it." The manager has strong feelings about that and about his closer.
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields, and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.