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A Neftali Feliz update

Neftali Feliz pitched two scoreless innings yesterday, and could be close to a return to the majors

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Is Neftali Feliz close to returning to the majors?

The hard-throwing righthanded pitcher threw two scoreless innings for Round Rock last night, striking out two while not allowing any hits or walks.  It was his fourth straight scoreless outing, and during that stretch, he's struck out five batters in five innings, walked just one, and given up no hits.  In his two outings immediately prior to this stretch, he had a 2 inning, 1 run outing at Albuquerque, where he fanned two, walked two and allowed a pair of hits, and a 2 run, 1 inning stint at New Orleans which featured a K and a home run.

Other than a week-long stretch in mid-May when Feliz was particularly homer-prone, his stat line for Round Rock has been pretty good.  In his first 8 outings, Feliz allowed 35 hitters an aggregate slash line of .129/.229/.258 in 9.2 IP, allowing 1 run on 4 hits and 3 walks while striking out 10.  Then, on May 18, Feliz had a disaster outing, allowing 4 runs in one inning of work, walking a batter and allowing 3 hits (including a pair of homers) despite striking out the side.  Feliz followed that outing up by allowing a homer in each of his next two outings, which prompted some "Feliz is broken" lamentations.

Feliz came back the day after that last homer outing, however, to pitch a scoreless inning against Omaha, and that started a solid stretch of performances for Feliz.  Beginning on May 25, Feliz has faced 42 batters, allowed a .158/.238/.289 slash line, and in 11 innings has given up 3 runs on 6 hits (including 1 homer) and 4 walks, striking out 12.

When Feliz returns will depend more on the reports on how his arm feels, his ability to pitch on back-to-back days (he's done that a couple of times now, most recently on June 16-17), and how his stuff looks.  I don't have readily available any recent velocity numbers for Feliz, but it is at least encouraging that, over the last month or so, he's been able to dominate AAA hitters.

In addition, Feliz has now spent enough time in the minors that, if the Rangers were to bring him back to the majors, he'd still end the season with less than five years of service time.  Feliz was called up to the majors in the beginning of August, 2009, and so had four years and a couple of months of service time at the start of this season.  By having him spend the first almost three months of the 2014 season in the minors, the Rangers have ensured Feliz is under team control through 2016, rather than becoming a free agent after the 2015 season.

So while we are still in wait-and-see mode with Feliz, I expect that we'll see him return to the major league club at some point in the next week or two.  With Texas returning home for a homestand on Tuesday, one wonders if the plan may not be to activate him then.