Rob Neyer on Neftali Feliz

SURPRISE AZ - FEBRUARY 18: Neftali Feliz #30 of the Texas Rangers warms up prior to spring workouts at Surprise Stadium on February 18 2011 in Surprise Arizona. (Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images)

Rob Neyer talks about the Neftali Feliz situation the Rangers are dealing with right now, and hits on the real reason why this is a "dilemma" for the Rangers:

In Feliz's case, the question really isn't whether he's more valuable as an excellent reliever or an excellent starter. We know the answer to that one. The question is whether he will be an excellent starter. Because if he's just a good one -- or, heaven forbid, he gets hurt -- the equation changes quite a bit.

The flow of snark about the Rangers not simply putting Feliz in the rotation and accepting Cy Young caliber performance from him has been increasing in recent days,* but as Neyer points out, it misses the point.

* I'm already getting pre-emptively irritated at the snark that will be directed at dumb ol' Ron Washington and Jon Daniels later this year, because they're using Yorvit Torrealba and Matt Treanor behind the plate rather than Mike Napoli.  The Twitterati will have a field day with this issue come October, if the Rangers make it that far.

If the Rangers were confident that Neftali Feliz could step into the rotation right now and give them 200 innings -- or even 150-160 innings -- of performance similar to what they got from C.J. Wilson last year, there would be no dilemma.  Feliz would be in the rotation.  That would be that.

This isn't a binary, black or white choice, however.  There's a non-zero chance Feliz would struggle as a starter, that he'd run out of gas by early August, and that the Rangers think they would be better off with him in the bullpen than as a starter.

Not because the Rangers are run by a bunch of people who need to sit in the corner wearing a funny hat, and who have to eat dinner with corks on their forks so they don't put their eyes out.  The issue the Rangers are struggling with with Feliz isn't that he's the magical closer, with a supernatural ability to pitch the 9th that no other pitcher can replicate, and thus he's the most important person on the team.

The issue is that they aren't sure that the 2011 Rangers will be a better team if they remove their best reliever from the bullpen and put him in the rotation, in part because of the other options out there in the rotation and in the bullpen, and in part because they aren't convinced he's going to step in right now and be good enough in the rotation to make it worth making the switch right now.

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