Right-hander Neftali Feliz twice hit 94 mph Thursday night during a scoreless ninth inning, and was sitting at 93 on most of his fastballs as he continues to chase the velocity he featured before having Tommy John surgery in August 2012.
He also mixed in an 85-mph changeup that got a swing and miss, and his final pitch was a 78-mph slider for an inning-ending strikeout. Feliz’s focus as he tries to become the Rangers’ closer has been on his secondary pitches, mechanics and location down in the strike zone, and he believes the upper-90s velocity will come.
Despite all the concerns he has heard, he said that he is on track for the regular season.
“I need to be comfortable with me,” said Feliz, who used a fastball and slider as a closer in 2010 and 2011. “I’ll be ready. It’s better if you use three pitches instead of two.”
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Manager Ron Washington also believes that Feliz will show more on the radar gun, and liked the way Feliz repeated his new mechanics and kept the ball down against San Francisco.
But Washington isn’t ready to anoint Feliz, who is competing with Joakim Soria and Tanner Scheppers, as the closer.
“He’s getting outs,” Washington said. “There’s more to be got. We’ve just got to wait until it arrives. In the meantime, he’s just got to learn how to get out with what he’s got. It’s going to be a while until we get to the point where he can freely let it go.”