7/3/2014 7:08 P.M. ET
Feliz getting close to big league return
By T.R. Sullivan / MLB.com
BALTIMORE -- Former All-Star closer Neftali Feliz continues to progress toward a return to the big leagues, possibly right after the All-Star break.
Feliz has taken over as the closer at Triple-A Round Rock and appears to be thriving in that role. He has not allowed a run in his last nine outings, having given up just two hits and a walk while striking out nine. He has six saves in that stretch.
"It seems like he has been pitching better since he has been in the ninth slot," Rangers pitching coach Mike Maddux said. "He is repeating his delivery better, executing better and pitching with his fastball. He is sprinkling in his offspeed stuff as opposed to over-exposing them. His fastball has life to it as opposed to velocity."
Feliz has been trying to get back to where he was as the Rangers closer in 2010-11 before undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2012. Since his return, his velocity has not been what it used to be and that caused him to rely too much on his offspeed pitches. He also lost the feel of his mechanics.
The Rangers optioned him to Round Rock in Spring Training so he could work on those issues. He has made improvement in all areas but has yet to show the consistency the Rangers expect before bringing him back to the big leagues. But he appears to be getting close and the Rangers are in need of a power reliever at the back end of their bullpen with Tanner Scheppers and Alexi Ogando on the disabled list with elbow inflammation. Neither pitcher is expected back anytime soon.
Rangers encouraged by Mikolas' first start
BALTIMORE -- The Rangers may have uncovered a serious long-term candidate for their rotation in converted reliever Miles Mikolas. They can thank Mike Anderson, Brad Holman and Scott Richmond for that.
Anderson is the scout who recommended Mikolas this offseason and the Rangers acquired him from the Padres for first baseman Chris McGuinness. Holman is the highly regarded pitching coach at Triple-A Round Rock who helped Mikolas with the transition from reliever to starter.
Richmond? He was the Round Rock starter who got scratched from a start because of a sore arm on May 30, forcing the Express to bring in a spot starter from their bullpen. That was Mikolas and he pitched five scoreless innings in his first start against New Orleans.
It was his first start since 2009 at Class A Eugene, shortly after the Padres had drafted him in the seventh round of the First-Year Player Draft out of Nova Southeastern University. He had been strictly a reliever the past four years. But the Rangers liked what they saw and kept him in the rotation.
"It is something that has always been on my mind," Mikolas said. "I started in college and everybody thinks they have the stuff to be a starter in the big leagues. I was joking with some of my buddies, every year I was asking the pitching coaches in the Padres organization, half-jokingly and half-seriously when I would get a chance to start. I didn't get it in four years there. It took three months here, It's funny how it turned out."
Mikolas allowed just one run in five innings against the Orioles on Tuesday night. The Rangers led 4-1 going into the sixth and Mikolas left after allowing a pair of one-out walks. The Orioles eventually rallied for a 6-4 victory.
"I thought he did a great job," manager Ron Washington said. "He mixed his pitches well, threw inside pretty good and threw strikes. The first five innings he pitched a whale of a game. I tried to get him out of there with a good taste in his mouth but it fell apart after that."
The Rangers have made it clear that this was not just a spot start, but Mikolas will get an extended look as a starter.
"It has been really exciting," Mikolas said. "It is an opportunity I'm going to try and take full advantage of and leave everything out there and try to make as good of an impression as I possibly can on these guys."
Hoying selected to Triple-A All-Star Game
BALTIMORE -- Round Rock Express outfielder Jared Hoying, who might lead all of baseball in at-bats for Spring Training intrasquad scrimmages, early live batting practice and B games, has been selected to play in the Triple-A All-Star game.
The game will be held on July 16 in Durham, N.C. Hoying is coming off an excellent month of June, hitting .347 with six home runs and 21 RBIs in 26 games. For the season, Hoying is hitting .260 with 47 runs scored, 17 doubles, 15 home runs, 48 RBIs and a .505 slugging percentage in 78 games. His outstanding June helped Round Rock to a 17-9 record in for the month, the best in the Pacific Coast League.
"Jared has really taken a step offensively this season," Rangers farm director Mike Daly said. "Jared has spent countless hours working on his swing with Round Rock hitting coach Justin Mashore and it's exciting to see Justin get rewarded for his efforts."
Hoying was a 10th-round pick by the Rangers out of the University of Toledo in the 2010 First-Year Player draft. He is also reportedly the best fisherman in the organization.
"He is a great teammate," catcher Chris Gimenez said. "He works his tail off, he is fun to be around and will do anything for you. For a small, scrawny guy, he can really mash the ball to all fields."
Washington: Martin still has a ways to go
BALTIMORE -- Rangers center fielder Leonys Martin made an outstanding catch on Nelson Cruz's potential home run in the second inning on Tuesday night and he also reached base in the seventh on a well-placed bunt.
Manager Ron Washington liked both plays. But he was not happy that Martin was picked off at first base by right-handed reliever Brad Brach in the seventh. The score was 4-4 and there were two outs in the inning.
"He is still trying to advance his knowledge of situations," Washington said. "Knowing what you should do and what you shouldn't do and when you should do it. All of those things he is still trying to learn.
"He did a great job of getting on with the bunt but you can't get picked off in that situation. You just can't. There are no excuses you can have. The league knows he is a basestealer. He is not fooling anybody when he gets to first base.
"He still has a long ways to go."
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.