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03/20/12 7:45 PM ET

Feliz exits third start with shoulder stiffness

Texas righty in process of transitioning from closer to starter

MESA, Ariz. -- The Rangers have experienced their first disconcerting pitching injury of the spring.

Neftali Feliz, who is slotted to be the Rangers' fifth starter, had to leave Tuesday's 6-2 victory over the Cubs after three innings with stiffness in his right shoulder.

Feliz, who was not available to the media after the outing, was taken back to Surprise, Ariz., for further evaluation.

"I check my guys after every inning," pitching coach Mike Maddux said. "I saw him rubbing his arm. I asked him if he was all right, and he said he was just tight. I said, 'That's it, we're not taking any chances, we're shutting it down.' He was throwing the ball well. We just decided to let the other guys pick him up."

Feliz, who was making his third Cactus League start, pitched three scoreless innings and threw 54 pitches, allowing two hits and a walk while striking out two. He was scheduled to pitch at least four innings as did Derek Holland, Matt Harrison and Yu Darvish in their last starts. His projected pitch count was 65 pitches.

"Everything was there today," Maddux said. "He threw his off-speed pitches, threw them behind in the count, did everything you'd like a guy to do. His changeup was really good."

The Rangers have not revealed the extent of the injury, but Feliz was on the disabled list from April 23 to May 6 last season because of shoulder inflammation. He also had some shoulder tightness midway through Spring Training. Maddux wasn't sure if there is a correlation between that and the increased workload that Feliz has to carry through Spring Training as a starting pitcher.

"If there is we have to find out the cause and make an adjustment," Maddux said.

This is the second straight Spring Training the Rangers have stretched out Feliz as a starting pitcher. The Rangers did so last spring but decided in the end to keep him in the bullpen because he was too valuable as closer.

They signed Joe Nathan this offseason as their closer so there would be no doubt about Feliz moving to the rotation. The Rangers have also been stretching out Alexi Ogando and Scott Feldman as potential starters in case of injury. Feldman is scheduled to start on Thursday night against the Reds in Goodyear, Ariz. Ogando's next scheduled outing is Friday.

Because Feliz came out early, reliever Michael Kirkman had to pitch two innings to help get the Rangers through the game. Kirkman responded with his best outing of the spring, holding the Cubs scoreless on one hit and one strikeout.

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.