Rangers' Feliz works with former star pitcher in shift to starting role

Posted Sunday, Jan. 15, 2012  comments  Print Reprints

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ARLINGTON -- Time, it has been reported, heals all wounds, and Neftali Feliz would seem to have needed the most separation between Game 6 of the World Series to recover from the pain of being oh so close.

He needed one strike in the ninth inning to close out a victory and clinch the Texas Rangers' first world title. Instead, David Freese ripped a two-out, two-run triple to right field to tie a game that St. Louis would win in 11 innings.

The Cardinals brought home the trophy the next night.

Feliz was said to be too distraught to pitch another inning in Game 6, which he disputes. Some have doomed him to the same fate of Mark Wohlers and Calvin Schiraldi, relievers who couldn't close out key World Series games and saw their careers come to unremarkable conclusions.

But Feliz doesn't need to worry about his next save opportunity, and he doesn't worry about what happened Oct. 27 at Busch Stadium. He's in the rotation now, and the new assignment has his full attention.

Feliz, who appeared Sunday on the final day of the annual Fan Fest, has shed some weight, is already working off a mound and has enlisted the help of three-time Cy Young Award winner Pedro Martinez to ease his transition out of the bullpen.

The bruise left from Game 6 is all but gone.

"It was something that really, really upset me a lot, but I wasn't that mad at myself because I threw my pitch," said Feliz, who threw a 98 mph fastball to Freese.

"We talk about it, and I thought about it. Twice we were one strike away from winning it all. But it didn't happen. With time, you try not to forget it but to not think too much about it."

His new duties are helping. Feliz said that he has been preparing mentally for the task of perhaps starting 30-plus games.

The biggest piece of advice offered from Martinez is that Feliz not worry about filling the void left by C.J. Wilson, a 16-game winner last year who bolted for Anaheim last month.

Feliz has been running more this off-season than in the past, both sprints and distance runs. Add in some conditioning advice from Martinez, a fellow Dominican, and the result is five pounds off Feliz's frame, down to 220 pounds.

"We talked about being a starter and working hard," Feliz said of a December meeting arranged by Rangers executives Mike Daly and A.J. Preller.

"It's something I have to make an adjustment with my body and my routines. He said it's going to take me a little bit of time to get ready to be a starter."

Next for Feliz is an appearance at the Rangers' pitching minicamp this week at Rangers Ballpark, where he will work with four-time Cy Young winner Greg Maddux.

A follow-up meeting has been scheduled for next month, when Martinez will watch Feliz throw off a mound.

Martinez threw one of the best changeups in baseball history, and it's a pitch Feliz said he needs to have in his arsenal to be effective as a starter.

"We had a great meeting in December," said Feliz, who has thrown one bullpen session this off-season.

"He's going to watch my changeup and help me with that. ...I have to trust all of my pitches, but I need to be more confident throwing my changeup and my slider."

That appears to be the only area where Feliz didn't seem confident Sunday. His blown save in Game 6 rattled him, but it's in the past.

"It happened," he said. "We have to move on."

Jeff Wilson, 817-390-7760

Twitter: @JeffWilson_FWST

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