Feliz works in, out of trouble in second start
Two double plays help Rangers right-hander limit pitch count
SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Yu Darvish did it once on Tuesday. Neftali Feliz did it twice on Wednesday against the Rockies, and he will need to do it more during the regular season.Feliz, making his second start of the spring, was able to get himself out of two tough jams by getting the Rockies to hit into inning-ending double plays. That allowed him to finish the afternoon with just one run scored over three innings in the Rangers' 6-1 loss to the Rockies. "He pitched well," manager Ron Washington said. "He went out there once again and used the whole strike zone and used all his pitches." The two double plays allowed Feliz to get through the three innings with an economical 47 pitches. That's going to be crucial for a pitcher trying to make the transition from closer to heavy-duty starter.
"Pitch count is big for everybody," Washington said. "But he showed he can throw the ball down in the zone and get ground balls."The double plays came on two different pitches: changeup and fastball. Feliz's mission this spring has been to develop all his pitches, and that was his focus on Wednesday. He started the afternoon by setting down the side in order in the first, and two were on strikeouts. He got Eric Young leading off the inning and Troy Tulowitzki to end it, and both were on sliders. Feliz throws both a curve and a slider, and a scout said right now the slider is the better to the two pitches. It breaks sharply and darts out of the zone. Feliz's curve is erratic right now. "You have to feel confident in all your pitches," Feliz said. "When you're pitching, you can't rely on your fastball. You have to use every pitch to get outs." Feliz struck out Jason Giambi with a changeup to start the second inning, then gave up doubles to Todd Helton and Jordan Pacheco. A single by Tyler Colvin put runners on the corners, but Feliz needed just two pitches to get out of the inning. Brendan Harris took a fastball for a strike before slapping a changeup right at second baseman Ian Kinsler for the inning-ending double play. In the third inning, Feliz allowed a one-out single to Young and walked Marco Scutaro. That brought up Tulowitzki, and this time Feliz needed three pitches. Tulowitzki grounded a 1-1 fastball out to shortstop Elvis Andrus to bring the inning to an end. "I felt comfortable today," Feliz said. "I was trying to hit my spots and I did." His next start is on Tuesday against the Cubs. He has three more left before the spring comes to an end and he opens the season as the Rangers' fifth starter after two seasons as their closer. "I'll keep working on the same things," Feliz said. "Throwing all my pitches, working on location and keeping the ball down." He did that at the right time on Wednesday.
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.