tune up (t??n ?p), verb
To adjust so as to put oneself in proper condition; to
prepare for a specified activity
To maul; to work over; to deliver a righteous beating to
We talked yesterday about how Scott Feldman’s Sunday effort
was the epitome of the first kind of tune-up.
What Neftali Feliz did yesterday embodied the second.
With Texas nursing a 7-6 lead against Colorado, Feliz was called
on to close things out for Texas in the ninth.
Batter one: 97, 98, 100 (according to MLB.com Gameday). Strikeout looking.
Batter two: 99, 99, 101, 81, 100. Strikeout swinging.
Batter three: 99, 80, 100, 100, 80, 100, 100. Strikeout swinging.
Some have written that three of those 100s were actually
101s. Regardless, of Feliz’s 15 pitches,
11 were strikes. Said the 21-year-old
after the game: “I was trying to guide the ball and be too fine when I was
pitching as a starter. I just really had
to get in that state of being a reliever.
“It was one of those days where I came out and knew I had
that one inning and gave it my all.”
Ron Washington on his expectations for Feliz: “That he doesn’t
take how good he is for granted. That he
keeps the fire burning in his belly. That
he realizes that when we put him in the game, we’re putting him in for one
purpose, to leave everything he has out there.”
I don’t know if Feliz is eventually going to be a lockdown
starting pitcher in the big leagues, but efforts like Monday’s – and quotes
like the one he delivered minutes later – almost make it hard to resist the
idea of turning the eighth inning, and maybe eventually the ninth, over to the
young Dominican for a long, long time. Almost.
There’s no TV or radio for today’s game against Arizona. But even if there were, you wouldn’t get a
glimpse of Feliz back at work. He’ll
pitch on the back fields, in a minor league game.
The consecutive-day assignment is a key one. The Rangers had him pitch back to back just
once in 2009 – actually, it’s the only time the righthander has done it in his
five-year pro career – and the results were impressive: a scoreless, one-hit
eighth against Round Rock on July 16 (10 pitches, six strikes, no walks or strikeouts)
followed by a perfect eighth against the same club on July 17 (17 pitches, 11
strikes, no walks, two strikeouts). It was
one of the final minor league tests for Feliz, who was in the big leagues just
over two weeks later.
But dig a little beneath the surface and the red flag
After those two appearances in two days (his sixth and
seventh straight scoreless efforts out of eight games as a reliever), he then
got three days of rest and, while his strikeout rate certainly didn’t suffer,
his effectiveness did.
On July 21, he allowed only his second home run of the
season, in a two-inning stint that featured four strikeouts.
Then, next pitching on July 25, he gave up two runs on three
hits (including a triple) and two walks in two frames. He fanned five, but threw only 28 of his 44
pitches for strikes, and allowed two Nashville Sounds to steal safely.
Feliz settled down after that, firing scoreless innings
against the Albuquerque Isotopes on July 28 and July 31, after which he was
summoned to Texas, where he was untouchable and indescribable for five weeks
before proving mortal (yet still dominant) over the season’s final month.
Still, at no time in that two-month run through the American
League did Feliz pitch on consecutive days.
He’ll do that today, because the Rangers will need him to in 2010 –
particularly with C.J. Wilson now in the rotation. The plan is for Feliz and Darren Oliver to
hold down the eighth inning, to preserve leads for Frankie Francisco to close out
in the ninth.
Keep an eye on how Feliz fares today – despite the lack of a
broadcast, there will be no doubt be real-time Twitter accounts of his inning
of back fields work and plenty of beat coverage in the papers – but also on what
happens the next time he pitches, which may be once more this week in Arizona
and possibly Saturday in Frisco, setting him up to be available in relief of
Scott Feldman on Monday, when it all counts.
In a camp in which consistency of velocity has been issue in
a couple cases (Rich Harden’s down, Matt Harrison’s up), yesterday’s Neftali
Feliz Show – 12 fastballs that averaged 99.4 on the gun – could be as big a
development as any, particularly given the struggles he had early in camp, and especially
if he bounces back with another solid outing today, and the rest of the week.
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(c) Jamey Newberg