Feliz dazzles in first start as Rangers edge Mariners

ARLINGTON -- Neftali Feliz was a starting pitcher Tuesday night for the first time in his major league career, five years after he was one of five prospects acquired in the Mark Teixeira trade.

That's a long wait for the die-hard members of the Texas Rangers' fans base, as well as the front-office personnel who orchestrated the trade with Atlanta and had their curiosity put on hold.

Though Feliz was a standout closer the past two seasons, there was always the belief that he could be come a No. 1 starter someday.

He looked like an ace in his rotation debut, tossing seven scoreless innings and scattering four singles as he outpitched former minor league teammate Blake Beavan for a 1-0 victory over Seattle.

David Murphy supplied the only run with a hard-hit one-hopper that didn't leave the infield with two outs in the second inning. Murphy went 3 for 3 as the Rangers managed just seven hits, six against 2007 first-round pick Beavan.

"This is a dream come true for me," Feliz said. "I was hoping for this moment, to become a starter in the major leagues, and it finally happened. I thank the Rangers for the chance to make me a starter, and here I am."

It was a banner night for the Rangers' prospect Class of 2007. That includes Murphy, who was acquired in the Eric Gagne trade with Boston.

Murphy added two doubles after his RBI single to up his early average to .533 but was stranded both times as the Rangers went 1 for 10 with runners in scoring position against Beavan, dealt away in the Cliff Lee trade, and Tom Wilhelmsen.

But Feliz, Mike Adams and Joe Nathan were better.

Feliz, like Yu Darvish on Monday, walked the first batter he faced, and would also walk Ichiro Suzuki with one out. But Feliz got Justin Smoak to hit into a double play to end the Mariners' best threat against him for six innings.

He retired nine straight hitters until Smoak singled with two outs in the fourth to end Feliz's mastery against the Mariners at 0 for 58 to start his career.

Smoak would single to start the seventh and would get to third base after a one-out single and a fielder's choice. Feliz got out of the jam, though just barely, when Miguel Olivo hit an innocent-looking squibber between the mound and first base.

Feliz pounced on it, bobbled the ball, but recovered just in time to get the diving, slow-footed Seattle catcher.

That was Feliz's only hiccup as he showed his plus-fastball early but also dropped in his changeup and curveball to keep Seattle hitters guessing.

"The fastball is my pitch," said Feliz, who became the third pitcher in Rangers history with seven scoreless innings in his first big league start. "I know I can use the changeup and everything else. But I have to use the fastball to get outs."

Adams worked a perfect eighth inning, and Nathan picked up his second save with an easy ninth. Just as Feliz and Beavan are linked in the Rangers' rebuilding process, Nathan and Feliz are linked to Nov. 21.

That's the day Nathan signed a two-year deal as a free agent to be the Rangers' closer and Feliz was moved to the rotation. It wasn't lost on Nathan.

"He's one of the reasons I'm here," Nathan said. "If he wanted to be a bullpen guy, I wouldn't be here. I thanked him on Day 1 of spring training, and he got the ball rolling from there.

"I know he busted his butt all winter and spring for his start today. For a guy who throws close to 100 mph to take that dedication to work on changeups and mixing up his breaking pitches ... I'm glad to see it pay off for him tonight."

Jeff Wilson, 817-390-7760

Twitter: @JeffWilson_FWST

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