As they prepare to break camp in Surprise, the Texas Rangers announced some moves in the pitching staff. The headliner was that newcomer Joakim Soria had beaten out former closer Neftali Feliz. Only three years ago, Feliz seemed to have a very bright future as a fireball closer, but the Rangers tried to move him to the rotation following the 2012 season, and he lasted only seven starts before going on the DL with elbow problems. Although the doctors had cleared him to play following Tommy John surgery, Feliz never recovered the zip on his fastball. Although he had supposedly reached 98 mph in a Domican winter league, he topped out at about 91 mph during the spring. On top of that, Feliz had poor command, as he often left the fastball high in the strike zone.
That combination led manager Ron Washington to announce that Feliz was no longer in contention for the closer role. At roughly the same time, Washington said that Alexi Ogondo would be the primary set-up man. If Feliz pitches for the Rangers at all this year, it will be in a middle-relief/mopup role. General manager Jon Daniels admitted that the move to turn Feliz into a starter may have been a mistake, stating that he had “thought about” whether the Rangers had mishandled Feliz.
The new closer, Soria, has battled back from injury problems himself, having missed the entire 2012 season and most of 2013. Soria was one of the best in the league with the Kansas City Royals. His 160 saves in five seasons earned him two All-Star selections and a top-10 Cy Young year. Durability may be an issue. He’s missed a lot of time, turns 30 in May, and had a history of injury problems even prior to 2012. But if he has truly returned to form, he may be in line for another good season.