March 20, 2012; Mesa, AZ, USA; Texas Rangers pitcher Neftali Feliz (30) throws against the Chicago Cubs in the first inning at HoHoKam Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Scuteri-US PRESSWIRE
After being lifted from his start on Tuesday after three innings because of tightness in his shoulder, Neftali Feliz was saying this morning that, on a scale of 1 to 10, his level of concern about the shoulder was "uno," and that he would have stayed out on the mound if it had been the regular season, rather than spring training.
This is good news for everyone except those who are desperate to get Roy Oswalt to Texas at any cost, and it sounds like Feliz should make his next start.
However, this also highlights the importance of Scott Feldman to this team. Feldman, a 17 game winner in 2009 and the team's Opening Day starter in 2010, is in the bullpen after a disappointing 2010 and a 2011 campaign that started late because of a knee injury. While he's currently a high-priced long man, Feldman has gotten good reviews for his cutter and sinker so far this spring, pitches that were sharp in 2009 and were not in 2010, and there seems to be a sense that he should be closer to the pitcher he was in '09 than in his disastrous 2010 campaign.
Last year, the Rangers had to dip into the spot-starter well rarely, needing only five starts (two from Feldman, three from Dave Bush) from anyone other than their front five. While we can hope that will be the case again this year, the reality is that a sixth starter will probably be needed more frequently in 2012 than in 2011, particularly given that the Rangers are going to want to be cautious with Feliz, who missed time with a shoulder problem last year and who will be seeing a big jump in his innings pitched (barring injury or disaster) in 2012.
Other teams have supposedly inquired about Feldman, but indications are that the Rangers aren't looking to move him, and given that Martin Perez and Neil Ramirez still seem to be a half-season away, at minimum, from being major league ready, Feldman could end up being a critical piece in the Rangers' 2012 success.