Neftali Feliz worked a scoreless ninth inning Monday, but it wasn’t clean or easy. He still has a ways to go as far as getting his velocity back, too, and has yet to separate himself for the closer role.
That role remains open, manager Ron Washington said, with three weeks until Opening Day. Feliz, Joakim Soria and Tanner Scheppers are the three candidates in camp and Washington went as far as suggesting he could use a committee to close out games this season.
“You’d always like one guy to do it, but if I have to use all three to help shut down a game, I’ll do it,” Washington said. “We haven’t made a decision.”
Feliz reported to camp as the front-runner after having success in winter ball, but has a 4.50 ERA and an opponents’ batting average of .333 against him through four outings.
Feliz touched 94 mph twice once he found himself in a jam Monday, and Washington would like to see that type of effort from the start.
Soria, meanwhile, has thrown three scoreless innings over three appearances. And Scheppers continues to get stretched out as a starter but is a known commodity in the bullpen after emerging as the setup man last year.
Asked if he wanted his closer to have a power arm, Washington said: “What you need in a closer role is a guy who can get three outs. Joe Nathan didn’t have a power arm, but Joe Nathan had pitches. Soria didn’t have a power arm when he was saving games for Kansas City, but he had four pitches. So it’s just getting three outs.
“You’d like to have a guy who can throw 98 mph with a hammer and a changeup and a slider, but we don’t live in that world.”