Last night felt good. There wasn’t a player on this team I wanted to see succeed more than Neftali Feliz, and not just because of the bold prediction that I made in my preseason article about him, “The Other New Guy”. Last night Neftali Feliz put together the best performance of any starting pitcher on this rotation the first time through. The 7 inning gem was also his longest performance in his professional career (including in the Minors where max was 6 1/3).
Believe me, I know the season is still very young, and he’s got a long way to go to get to my prediction of 16 wins…but you have to be excited about what you saw last night. Feliz proved that he is more than just a flame-throwing closer and that he does indeed have an effective changeup and a pretty salty slider that compliment his fastball – which really never reached the velocity that we’re used to seeing from Feliz, whether by design or simply because his arm strength is still ramping up.
Feliz gave up only four hits and two walks over 7 innings while striking out four – all on 108 pitches…and all in a game that seemed to be over in the blink of an eye due to his rapid pace and control. He is only the third Rangers pitcher to ever throw at least seven scoreless innings in his first big league start.
“I was trying to throw all my pitches and keep them low and I did that,” Feliz said. “There is a big difference between being a closer and being a starter. As a starter you have to think and be calm and execute. The first inning I had to make a little adjustment. I had a little pressure on me and I had to work out of it and make my pitches.”
“Awesome,” catcher Mike Napoli said. “He did a great job. We kind of noticed his changeup was on and we were going with it and it was good pitch for him tonight. That can change from night to night. He had that going and we used it a lot. That’s what you’ve got to do as a starter. You can’t go out there and throw fastballs every single time through the lineup. You’ve got to be able mix it up and he did that.”
“Everybody knows he can throw 100, but he was mixing in a lot of pitches tonight,” Mariners DH Jesus Montero said. “He struck me out on an off-speed pitch the first time, so I kind of forgot about the fastball for a little bit. Then I got base hits on a slider and changeup. He was unbelievable tonight. Amazing.”
“He just did a really good job of pitching,” designated hitter Michael Young said. “What’s impressive is that wasn’t his routine as a closer. As a closer he would come in the ninth and throw bullets. Tonight was all pitching.”
Neftali’s next start will come this Sunday at 1:05 in Minnesota against the Twins.
- David Murphy continues to perform at the plate, as he was 3-3 with two doubles and the games lone RBI last night.
“I want to stay the course,” Murphy said. “I feel like in the past if I had a start like this, I might start swinging hard and thinking in my mind that I’m playing with house money and getting outside myself. It’s a lot of fun, but it’s just five games and there’s a lot of baseball to be played.”
- Neftali was amazing last night, and the opposing pitcher, former Rangers 1st round pick Blake Beavan was pretty salty as well.
- Gotta love the smart base running by Adrian Beltre last night to keep a rundown going long enough for Michael Young to advance to second base. If you missed it, T.R. Sullivan (MLB.com) broke it down and there is video.
“That’s baserunning 101 right there,” Rangers manager Ron Washington said. “You get caught in a rundown, you have to stay alive as long as you can to let the guy get the extra base. That’s exactly what he did.”
- The Ian Kinsler extension is expected to be made official later today, after Kinsler completed the physical yesterday. The Rangers fully expect the young second baseman to be declared “healthy” later today and will announce the contract shortly thereafter.
“Well deserved,” outfielder David Murphy said. “He is as complete of a player as you’ll see in the big leagues and has the best instincts of any player I’ve ever played with. He loves the game. He’s the ultimate competitor.”
Washington on Ian Kinsler as a clubhouse leader: “He’s matured into a lieutenant. We have a couple of generals and a couple of captains, he was a sergeant, now he’s a lieutenant. Kinsler has gained his respect every year, not only in our clubhouse but around the league.”
- Mike Napoli, Josh Hamilton and Opening Day starter Colby Lewis are among the players who could still become free agents after the 2012 season. Kinsler told Napoli that he was next yesterday in the locker room, and while I know it would be nice to get both Napoli and Hamilton locked up during the season, the lpossibility of a deal with Napoli in the near future seems more likely.
“I guess we’ll see,” Napoli said. “I don’t know, but I hope we can get something done. The bottom line is I want to be here, but I really don’t know how it is going to work out.”
- Utility infielder Albert Gonzalez got into the game in the 9th inning last night, meaning that Brandon Snyder is the last man to get on the field.
- The Rangers face off with former Ranger Kevin Millwood tonight, first pitch 7:05pm. Colby Lewis will take the mound for Texas.