Feliz, adj.: In high spirits.
It’s not until you get late into Season One of “Lost” that the numbers 4, 8, 15, 16, 23, and 42 hold any meaning, and because of that the flight number and the seat assignments and hotel room numbers and bounty amounts and so on don’t hold any particular significance beforehand.
When Max and I parked at 6:00 tonight and walked into Frisco’s Dr Pepper Ballpark, the outside temperature reading in my car was 101 degrees.
I didn’t know it then, but it was right out of the “Lost” playbook.
It took Neftali Feliz 19 pitches to get out of the first inning, but he did so without allowing a run. His first two fastballs registered at 92 and 93. He would throw 14 more fastballs in the first inning, and every one of them clocked between 95 and 98.
And I swear: without seeing any readings, and without knowing who was pitching, you’d swear it was 91-93 coming out of Feliz’s hand. You just can’t believe how effortless, how quiet, how hypnotizing he is mechanically.
Of the many scouts in the middle few sections behind the plate, there were two with the same franchise sitting next to each other a row in front of Max and me. (I won’t say which club, but I painted Cookie Monster in Max’s room a few years ago wearing a uniform that says “Oreos” with a logo that looks just like the club these two scouts work for.) Three times in the top of the first inning Oreos Scout A and Oreos Scout B turned toward each other, and exchanged wordless looks, with dropped jaws.
Six of Feliz’s final nine first-inning pitches hit 97 or 98, and when the final one blew 28-year-old, .320/.397/.547-hitting Brian Stavisky away, Oreos Scout A’s shoulders started pumping up and down, as he laughed uncontrollably.
Inning two: Feliz’s fifth pitch slapped a 99 on the scoreboard, prompting Oreos Scout B to send a text message to someone.
Feliz’s 12th pitch? I should have realized that the temperature reading in my car was telling me something.
One hundred and one miles per hour.
That is, 100 on the outfield scoreboard (actually, “00″) — but 101 on the presumably more reliable scouting guns.
In the fourth inning, Feliz hit 101 according to the scoreboard. Oreos Scout A turned completely around and, once he had the attention of some other organization’s scout about four rows back, shouted, “Hey, what’s that shiny stuff you got on your chin?”
The other scout smiled, not even checking to see if he’d actually drooled.
Once he finished that fourth frame, Feliz had thrown a reasonable 54 pitches (13.5 per inning), and had thrown 38 of them (an outstanding 70 percent) for strikes. Forget his 20 years of age and the fact that it was his first appearance above Low Class A and the odds that the 6,000 fans he pitched in front of were probably twice as many as he’d ever pitched in front of before. And forget the mad velocity. That was sparkling efficiency.
In those four innings, Feliz allowed no runs and walked no batters, scattering three hits and punching out four hitters.
There were some warts on the night. Feliz did an awful job holding runners, four of whom stole bases easily. He lost command of the strike zone in the fifth, giving up two doubles, a two-run single (to Chris Pettit, who came into the game as an .077 AA hitter), and a walk, throwing seven straight balls at one point. He allowed three runs in the inning and, having finished the frame with another Stavisky strikeout (97, 95, and 97), entrusted a 4-3 lead to the Riders bullpen that didn’t stand up.
The plus plus plus velocity is probably going to get hit hard by polished professional hitters unless his off-speed offerings improve. But there’s a lot of time for Feliz to develop his arsenal, and the fact that he’s throwing such high-octane pitches for strikes so regularly is really, really encouraging.
Max (who is closer in age to Feliz than I am) and I had to call it a night shortly after Feliz did, and while Feliz hit a bump in the fifth and was eventually deprived of a win in his first AA appearance, there was a ton to be blown away by, whether you were Brian Stavisky, three-year-old Max Newberg, or his Dad.
As I near the finish of “Lost” Season Two, I’m completely sucked in and can’t wait to see what’s in store for me in Seasons Three and Four, and after that. I don’t know where the series is headed, and certainly don’t know where it’s going to end up, but the fun of it is that I’m dying to find out, digging it every step of the way with the type of anticipation that makes me feel like a kid again.
That’s exactly how I feel about Neftali Feliz.