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09/23/09 10:40 PM ET
Maddux puzzled by Feliz's dip in velocity
Rangers pitching coach keeping close eye on rookie
By T.R. Sullivan / MLB.com
OAKLAND -- Just about every ballpark has a radar gun to clock pitches and entertain fans. Readings vary from ballpark to ballpark. Some guns are faster than others. A pitcher can throw the exact same pitch from one city to another and could still be clocked at three or four miles per hour slower. But when the same radar gun clocks a pitcher five to seven miles per hour slower in a seven-week interval, that becomes noteworthy. Neftali Feliz is being clocked much slower lately by the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum radar gun than he did back on Aug. 3 in his first appearance for the Rangers. "If you can tell me why, I would appreciate it," pitching coach Michael Maddux said. "Mechanically, he is repeating his delivery exactly as the last time. His mechanics are a minuscule second apart." Feliz made his Major League debut on Aug 3 and pitched two scoreless innings against the Athletics. He struck out four of six batters. His fastball was clocked between 97-100 mph. On Tuesday night, Feliz pitched two-thirds of an inning against the Athletics at the Coliseum. His fastball was 92-94 mph with only one reaching 96. "When he first came up, the guy was very excited," Maddux said. "He was reaching back and maxing out on everything, doing it for the first time. Now we're at the time of the year where it's tough for all young players. They have never had a starting line in February and a finish line in October. But it's still in there inside of him." Feliz has allowed seven hits, six walks and five runs in his last 6 1/3 innings over his last five appearances. In his first 22 games, he allowed one run on five hits and one walk. "You can still be successful as long as you change speeds and command the fastball," Maddux said, noting the work of Oakland pitcher Trevor Cahill, who was the winning pitcher on Tuesday in the Athletics' 10-1 win. "Velocity just allows you to get away with mistakes," Maddux said. "Trevor Cahill had the same velocity. You just have to pitch better." Maddux said Feliz has not brought up any physical issues. "None," Maddux said. "Zero. He is as healthy as a horse and is strong as a bull." Feliz has pitched 105 1/3 innings this year. He pitched 127 innings in 2008. But this is his first season being used mainly in relief. He switched to the bullpen in July and manager Ron Washington said that may make a difference. "It's a different role for the kid," Washington said. "He's usually used to take as much time as he needs to be ready. He may be getting loose enough to throw the ball but not loose enough to get it out there the way he wants it." Velocity though is hardly the only thing that the Rangers like about Feliz. They are also thrilled with the way he has developed his breaking ball and changeup, but there is also his makeup. "I would say his competitiveness," Maddux said. "He's not over-awed by the situation he's pitching in. He's out there to do the job. He's not out there because he's happy to be in the big leagues. He's got a good competitive nature at a young age."
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.