Tag: Neftali Feliz

Neftali Feliz to Pirates: Latest Contract Details, Comments and Reaction

Always seeking depth for their bullpen, the Pittsburgh Pirates have signed free-agent right-hander Neftali Feliz to a one-year deal. 

The Pirates officially announced Feliz’s deal on Twitter. Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports reported he will make $3.9 million. 

Feliz is coming off a brutal 2015 season split between the Texas Rangers and Detroit Tigers. The 27-year-old had a 6.38 ERA with 57 hits allowed, 39 strikeouts and 18 walks in 48 innings. 

There are reasons to believe, as the Pirates clearly do, that he will be able to turn things around. He’s still young, despite having seven years of MLB experience, and his average fastball velocity of 94.6 mph last year was the highest since 2012. 

Travis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review noted how Feliz’s uptick in velocity fits in with the Pirates’ current philosophy:

Injuries have taken a toll on Feliz, limiting him to a total of 44 games from 2012-14 before he was able to pitch in 48 games last year. 

But the Pirates have a knack for rehabilitating the careers of pitchers who have been cast aside due to poor performance and/or injuries. Francisco Liriano, A.J. Burnett and Mark Melancon vastly improved their standing after putting on a black and yellow jersey. 

Pittsburgh’s bullpen, headlined by Melancon in the closer’s role, is already loaded with Tony Watson, Jared Hughes and Arquimedes Caminero serving as the primary setup guys. Feliz just needs to be placed in low-pressure situations early in the year, get command of his fastball and let his power arm do the work. 

If Feliz can pitch anywhere near the level he did in his first three years as a member of the Rangers, he’ll give the Pirates’ already-dominant bullpen another stellar piece to use.  

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Texas Rangers: Ron Washington’s Best Moves of the 2014 Season

The 2014 baseball season hasn’t been the kindest to Ron Washington and his Texas Rangers.

After all, they have led the big leagues in trips to the disabled list, and at one point, they had 16 players on it for one injury or another. And with 13 players currently on the DL and sitting 26 games under .500, the club is just hoping to finish the rest of the season unscathed.

Washington has had next to nothing to work with for most of the season. He was forced into converting two relievers into starters and platooning a handful of players at second base, and his lineup cards soon became filled with prospects and minor leaguers.

And although the Rangers are tied with the Colorado Rockies for the worst record in baseball, Washington has done a decent job with the roster he has.

The eighth-year manager isn’t going to be taking home any awards this year, but he continues to show an ability to lead this team.

Here are his best managerial decisions of the 2014 season. They in no way rank with his back-to-back trips to the World Series, but they do carry some significance considering the team’s current standing.

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10 Bold Predictions for Roy Oswalt as a Texas Ranger

The Texas Rangers made an unsurprising yet intriguing move by signing free-agent pitcher Roy Oswalt for the rest of the season.

Clearly the addition of Oswalt gives the Rangers the potential to be one of the best rotations in baseball for the rest of the season. 

But what exactly will Oswalt accomplish with the reigning two-time American League Champions?

Here are 10 predictions for Roy Oswalt as a Texas Ranger. 

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Stephen Strasburg and 4 Other Young Starters with Innings Limits in 2012

Innings limits may not always be the most popular thing for managers and owners to impose, but they are definitely important in keeping young arms fresh and healthy.

Washington Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo told the Washington Post that Stephen Strasburg will be on an innings limit this season. Strasburg will pitch every fifth day from the start of the regular season until he hits the 160-innings mark.

The Nationals will not tamper with his outings, allowing him to pitch as deep into games as he is able to. After 160 innings, though, the team will shut him down for the remainder of the season.

Strasburg is already one of the most dominant pitchers in baseball, striking out 116 batters in just 17 starts. He’s walked just 19 batters and pitched to a 2.54 ERA.

His growth is nowhere near complete, however. Many feel he has even more room to grow. That’s why it’s a smart decision to keep him on regular rest while he works towards 160 innings.

Allowing him to pitch on a consistent basis will help him to learn how to adjust between starts and develop a routine on how to prepare on a day-to-day basis.

Nationals fans may not be in love with the decision, as they were hoping that this would finally be the season that the team makes a playoff push.

Strasburg will be essential in getting the team to that point, but he will almost certainly not be a part of the playoff roster if the Nationals can earn a spot.

Strasburg is not alone this season, as there are several other young hurlers who could be put on innings limits in 2012.

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Fantasy Baseball Sleepers 2012: Daniel Bard and High-Risk Starters

If you haven’t looked at it yet, just know that the starting pitching pool is pretty deep this season. Fantasy junkies everywhere should be looking forward to their draft, if they haven’t drafted already, of course.

There are some pretty good sleepers in the pool. I’m a big fan of Brandon Morrow and Brandon Beachy, and I’m of the mind that Madison Bumgarner could contend for the National League Cy Young this year. 

But this is not an article about sleepers you should be targeting. This is an article about sleepers that you shouldn’t be targeting.

There are five risky starting pitchers that spring to mind. I’ll count ’em down and explain why they’re so risky.

5. Hiroki Kuroda, New York Yankees

Hiroki Kuroda has a career ERA of 3.45 in four season, he’s coming off a season in which he posted a career-low 3.07 ERA, and he’s joining a Yankees team that is going to score a ton of runs.

So what’s not to like, you ask?

A couple things, really. Despite his low ERA, Kuroda had trouble avoiding the fat part of the bat in 2011. His HR/FB rate climbed to a curiously high 11.3 percent, resulting in a total of 24 dingers hit off Kuroda. That’s not a huge surprise given the fact Kuroda’s ground-ball rate went from better than 51 percent in 2010 to 43.2 percent in 2011.

In his first three seasons in Los Angeles, Kuroda had a habit of posting an ERA lower than his FIP. In 2011, it was the exact opposite. His FIP was 3.78, significantly higher than his ERA.

Keep in mind that all of this was happening in the National League West. The American League East is an entirely different animal, and the same is true of the American League as a whole. Kuroda will be very vulnerable in 2012.

4. Trevor Cahill, Arizona Diamondbacks

Trevor Cahill was one of the best-kept secrets in baseball in 2010, as he won 18 games, with an ERA under 3.00. The A’s enjoyed more of the same from Cahill in the first half of 2011, as he won eight games with a 3.12 ERA.

After the break, Cahill had an ERA close to 6.00, and hitters hit over .300 against him.

The key in Cahill’s regression for 2010 to 2011 was an increase in his BABIP (batting average on balls in play). In 2010, Cahill’s BABIP was .236. In 2011, it was .302.

That increase was bound to happen given Cahill’s tendency to induce ground balls, and it’s an increase a lot of fantasy experts saw coming. All they had to do was look at Cahill’s FIP of 4.19 in 2010, which was way higher than his ERA. In 2011, Cahill’s FIP was 4.10, pretty much even with his ERA.

In other words, the pitcher that we saw in 2011 is the true Trevor Cahill. The 2010 version of him was a fluke.

3. Ricky Nolasco, Miami Marlins

Fantasy players and experts alike would like nothing more than to see Ricky Nolasco recapture his 2008 form, which led him to a 15-8 record, a 3.52 ERA and a 1.10 WHIP.

Nolasco hasn’t been the same in the three years since, and that’s due in large part to bad luck. He’s consistently kept his FIP in the 3.00s, yet his ERAs have stayed steady in the 4.50-5.00 range. 

The trouble with Nolasco is that hitters just don’t seem to be fooled by his stuff anymore. His BAA in 2008 was .239. It increased to .259 in 2009, .273 in 2010 and .295 in 2011.

A steady regression like that can’t be blamed entirely on bad luck. At some point, you just have to shrug you shoulders and come to the conclusion that Nolasco just isn’t as good as he looked in 2008.

Somebody in your league will overdraft him based on that season. Don’t be that guy.

2. Daniel Bard, Boston Red Sox

Now we’re getting into true wild-card territory, an area where Daniel Bard looms large.

Bard established himself as one of the most dominant relievers in the last two seasons, using his high-90s fastball and nasty slider to punch hitters out and set things up for Jonathan Papelbon. With his stuff, Bard was pretty much born to pitch out of the pen.

Bard will be starting for the Red Sox in 2011, mainly because they don’t have any better options. 

There’s a lot of uncertainty surrounding Bard. We don’t know if his fastball velocity is going to hold up over six or seven innings, or if he can even last that long on a consistent basis. His secondary pitches will have to be better, and the fact that Bard has never really had to use them before means he’s dealing with quite the learning curve.

Somebody will go for Bard because of a) his fastball and b) the fact that he plays for the Red Sox. Don’t be tempted to beat anybody to the punch.

1. Neftali Feliz, Texas Rangers

If Bard makes the cut for being a risky reliever-turned-starter option, then it’s only fair that Neftali Feliz be put on this list for the same reason.

There are two reasons I’m ranking Feliz ahead of Bard. The first is that people are more likely to reach for him in your draft, and the other is that there are legit reasons to doubt his ability to handle starting duty.

The Rangers tried Feliz out as a starter last spring, ultimately deciding they liked him better in the bullpen. The experiment seemed to throw Feliz off, as he wasn’t throwing very hard in the first half of the season and he wasn’t striking hitters out like he did in 2010.

Feliz was more like himself after the All-Star break, but the pitcher we saw before the break was a precursor to the pitcher we’re going to see starting in 2012. He didn’t throw as hard and he wasn’t controlling the ball very well.

Hitters had an easy enough time hitting that pitcher in a single inning. Just imagine what they’ll be able to do over five or six innings.


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Texas Rangers: Which Starting Rotation Candidates Will Make the Cut?

The Texas Rangers were long-regarded as an offensive-minded ball-club, built upon the strength of their lineup, with pitching generally seeming like an afterthought. 

Since Nolan Ryan took control of the franchise however, the emphasis on building a deep, talented pitching staff has become a priority.

Perhaps not so coincidentally, the Rangers have experienced more success in the last two seasons than they had throughout their entire history up to 2010. Beginning in 1961 as the Washington Senators, the franchise had only experienced three playoff series, losing in the first round in 1996, ’98 and ’99, before their two-consecutive AL pennants over the last two seasons.

Still an offensive powerhouse, Texas has taken a more balanced approach to building their roster, focusing as much on pitching and defense as on the strength of their lineup. There are few one-dimensional players on the squad these days, a welcome change from seasons past.

After two straight years of incredible success, the pitching staff finds itself in a state of transition, though many of the primary contributors remain the same.

They signed Joe Nathan to bolster the rear of their bullpen, in hope that one-time uber-prospect Neftali Feliz can become the ace they have long envisioned. Their ace of the last two years, reliever-turned-starter C.J. Wilson, has moved on to their fierce rivals in Anaheim, preferring to move home to Orange County once he became a free agent.

Texas will gamble again on transitioning a reliever to the starting rotation, something which they’ve had great success with over the last few years, first with Wilson, then with Alexi Ogando last season.

Also, their dramatic leap into the international player market was one of potential great reward, as they signed perhaps the most-touted Japanese pitcher ever in Yu Darvish. His professional resume in Japan is stellar and they’re gambling big that he can replicate his success in Major League Baseball.

Alongside Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan, the Rangers’ principal owner, Texas has established a formidable brain trust with an intimate knowledge of pitching. Their pitching coach Mike Maddux is one of the more respected at his profession in the league, able to impart a vast array of knowledge and experience upon his staff.

His brother, future Hall of Famer Greg Maddux, one of the greatest pitchers in recent decades, will now serve as a front office consultant to GM Jon Daniels.

With such an impressive group of pitching minds involved in the construction and management of their staff, the Texas Rangers are in good hands when it comes to matters of the mound. 

As they prepare to decide upon their starting staff for the 2012 season, faced with an excess of talented arms, let’s look at the primary contenders who will be vying for the five slots in their rotation.

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ALCS Game 1 Live Blog: Detroit Tigers vs. Texas Rangers

It’s baseball time in Texas as the Rangers get home-field advantage and host the Detroit Tigers for the first two games in a series that determines who gets to play St Louis or Milwaukee in the World Series. Texas is coming off of a 3-1 series win over Tampa Bay while Detroit shocked New York by taking the series in five games.

Will home field-advantage be a factor for the Rangers? The Rangers are 3-5 at home since 2010 and the Tigers only won one home game in this year’s American League Division Series. This is the first ALCS appearance for the Tigers since 2006 where they swept the Oakland Athletics in four games. This will be the second straight ALCS appearance for Texas as they seek out another trip to the World Series.


Texas Rangers StarterCJ Wilson

CJ starts Game 1 after a terrible ALDS performance where he gave up six runs on seven hits in five innings. But this southpaw has put up great numbers during the regular season, including 206 strikeouts in 223.1 innings pitched. He will need to locate his pitches early in order to shut down this offense that has already given him fits this season.


Detroit Tigers StarterJustin Verlander

Verlander, the heavy favorite for the AL Cy Young award, has had an incredible season and plans to continue that season tonight in Arlington. His 24-5 record, along with his 250 strikeouts in 251 innings, is going to present a challenge to the potent Ranger offense. His only appearance against the Rangers was a complete game two-run showing that wasn’t enough to lead his team to a win.


Location: Arlington, TX

Weather: 84 degrees, mostly cloudy, 17 MPH wind coming east southeast, 40 percent chance of precipitation (90 percent chance around 8:00 p.m. CST)

Network: FOX

Tonight’s game begins at 7 p.m. CST. Check this live blog during the game for continuous updates and analysis.

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Texas Rangers Bullpen Issues Continue: Why Is Closer Neftali Feliz Struggling?

The most dominant closer in the Major Leagues last year isn’t running on all cylinders this season. With such a tight race in the West, it’s a problem the Texas Rangers can ill afford.

Neftali Feliz has blown three saves so far this year, including one Friday night against the Kansas City Royals

With Texas up 7-6 in the bottom of the ninth, Feliz gave up a solo home run to Alex Gordon. That shot allowed the Royals to tie, and eventually win, the game in extra innings 12-7.

And here’s the kicker; all three blown saves have come against Kansas City. But at this rate, these blown saves are likely to continue…and it won’t be just KC.

Since coming off the DL, Feliz has teetered on the brink of ho-hum. Rarely this season has he been in a game that he didn’t allow one or two base runners to get into scoring position.

In other words, he’s living on the edge—and not in a good way.

Feliz, the flamethrower who dominated opposing batters last season, the one who easily earned American League Rookie of the Year honors, doesn’t look himself. 

He’s fortunate it’s only three blown saves.

The truth is Feliz is still young and inexperienced. Though his talent level is beyond question, he still has moments that drive managers out of their mind. 

“It’s just that he’s not as sharp as he was last year,” said TXA 21 commentator and former Texas Ranger Mark McLemore following the game. “Teams are making adjustments to him. Feliz needs to make adjustments as well.”

Adjustments may be an understatement.

During his first blown save last week against the Royals, Feliz was completely dependent on his off-speed pitch before surrendering the lead; never establishing his fastball. The next night, Feliz went back out on the mound and, again, failed to shut KC down. This time, he threw nearly all fastballs.

Ask anyone in the Major Leagues and they’ll tell you this one, immutable truth: regardless of how good a pitcher is, if he throws the same pitch over and over, someone will make him pay. And they did.

Feliz, like any pitcher, is at his best when he locates and establishes his fastball. He can then keep hitters off-balance with his slider and curveball. With this formula, he’s nearly un-hittable because his 100mph fastball appears more like it’s 130mph.

When he’s throwing only one pitch, he’s meat. That suggests one thing: Feliz has lost his confidence.

In a recent online article, ESPN Dallas/Fort Worth also suggested Feliz needs to mix his pitches.

There is talk that Neftali isn’t 100 percent following his stint on the disabled list. That too is a possibility. Only Feliz knows for sure.

But according to McLemore, Feliz’s problems could be due to any number of things (mechanical, mental or maturity)— whatever the issue, fans shouldn’t be ready to hit the panic button.

“He’s a young pitcher and he’s going to make mistakes. Give him time to grow,” McLemore said.

However, the Texas Rangers cannot afford many more mistakes if they’re to make another run at the AL West title. The Texas bullpen is the weak link so far this season and it desperately needs a strong anchor to give the team a chance to win games.

Let’s hope Feliz regains his confidence and starts running on all cylinders soon. Otherwise, the Rangers will be headed in the wrong direction. 

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Jon Daniels’ Trade History: How the 2010 Texas Rangers Became AL Champions

On October 4, 2005, the 2010 Texas Rangers took steps to becoming the first team in franchise history to win a playoff series.

Tack onto that another playoff series win, advancing to the World Series for the first time in franchise history and instilling a long-lost hope for baseball in North Texas.

This is the day that general manager John Hart stepped down from his position, leaving 28-year old Jon Daniels in charge of a team that had not reached the playoffs since 1999.

Daniels was given a team with arguably the most talented young infield in the game in  Alfonso Soriano, Mark Teixeira, Michael Young and Hank Blalock.

However, only one of these promising players was on the Rangers World Series roster in 2010.

Let’s take a look at how Jon Daniels’ trade success (and failure) led to a team that came out of nowhere to capture the imaginations of fans across the country.


The Alfonso Soriano Trade

Days after being handed the team, Daniels made his first big trade as GM. It was also one of his worst. Daniels shipped off Soriano to the Washington Nationals for outfielder Brad Wilkerson, outfielder Termell Sledge and pitcher Armando Galarraga.

Wilkerson’s time in Texas was incredibly unfulfilling, leaving Texas after two years with a batting average for the Rangers of .228 while playing in only 214 games out of a possible 324.

Sledge is most remembered in Texas as being involved in another bad Daniels trade, one we’ll discuss later.

Armando Galarraga, unlike Sledge, did find success in the majors, throwing a near perfect game in the summer of 2010—for the Detroit Tigers. Galarraga finished his career in Texas with a 6.23 ERA and was traded to Detroit in 2008 for Michael Hernandez.

All Soriano did for the Nationals was hit 46 home runs while also stealing 41 bases, finishing third in the MVP balloting.

He then went onto a good career as a Chicago Cub being of the select few that can combine plus power and plus speed.

Strike out.


The Adrian Gonzalez Trade

Texas Rangers fans have played the “what if” scenarios over and over again in their heads over this one. A month after the Soriano trade, Daniels got the itch again and dealt the incredibly talented first base prospect Adrian Gonzalez to San Diego along with starting pitcher Chris Young and the aforementioned Termell Sledge. Texas received in return (get ready to cringe) starting pitcher Adam Eaton, relief pitcher Akinori Otsuka and Billy Killian.

Adam Eaton had a career ERA of 4.34 with the Padres, never winning more than 11 games in a season before being sent to Texas. As a Ranger he made 13 starts with a 5.12 ERA, leaving after the season.

Billy Killian has been a career minor leaguer for the Rangers, White Sox and Orioles.

The one success from this trade for the Rangers was Otsuka. Otsuka pitched for the Rangers for two seasons, recording 36 saves and owning a miniscule 2.25 ERA. He has not pitched in the majors since 2007.

On the other hand, San Diego found success in Young, who won 33 games over five years, owning an ERA of 3.60.

What happened to Gonzalez? He is now considered one of the best all-around first basemen in the game. He mans first for the Boston Red Sox and has hit over 32 homeruns four of the past five seasons while also hitting for a high average.

Swing and Miss.


The Nelson Cruz Trade

The trade that started to turn things around for the Daniels administration occurred in July of 2006. The Rangers acquired Nelson Cruz, the starting right fielder for their World Series run. Yet Cruz was not the acquisition ranger fans were most excited about.

On July 28, and in the thick of a playoff push, Daniels pulled the trigger on a deal that would send Francisco Cordero, Laynce Nix, Kevin Mench and Julian Cordero to the Milwaukee Brewers for Cruz and highly sought-after Carlos Lee.

Lee was expected to come in and lead the Rangers to the playoffs for the first time in seven years.

It was not to be, and Lee bolted south after the season to the Houston Astros. The trade appeared to be destined for disaster early.

After a few years of struggling between AAA Oklahoma City and the big league club, however, Nelson Cruz finally put together all the pieces to his enormous potential at the end of the 2008 season.

He then became an All-Star in 2009 and carried that over into the rangers’ memorable 2010 run. Cruz batted in the heart of a potent Rangers offense and delivered time and time again, with the numbers to back him up.

Although not apparent at first, the Cruz trade contributed overall to the Rangers’ incredible run about as much—if not more—than the next few (higher profile) trades.


The Mark Teixeira Trade

This trade, at the end of Daniels’ career, will be the one he is most remembered for. On July 31, 2007, amidst high speculation, Daniels traded superstar Mark Teixeira and Ron Mahay to the Atlanta Braves for a group headlined by Jarrod Saltalamacchia signaling to Ranger fans that the team was in full-on rebuilding mode.

Teixeira’s career, before and after the trade, has been one that makes you wonder whether the trade was a success or an epic failure. Gold Gloves, Silver Sluggers, All-Star appearances, and a bevy of other awards are those owned by Teixeira.

Why trade arguably the best young hitter and defender in baseball at his position for any amount of prospects. The stats show that many high profile prospects fizzle out in the pros and never amount to anything.

Daniels knew that the entire organization needed an overhaul, and the chance to acquire five top prospects for Teixeira was a risk that needed to be taken. If just two of the prospects flourish in the majors, you can count the trade a success. So who was it going to be to succeed and make Daniels look like a genius?

Saltalamacchia? The centerpiece of the deal? If you had to put your money on someone to be the superstar, it would probably be the one that gets the most recognition at the time of the trade.

Well, Salty’s career has been nothing short of disappointing; he has failed to live up to the hype. As a Ranger, he owned a .243 batting average with 19 homers over four seasons. He is now currently residing on the Boston Red Sox roster.

Beau Jones hasn’t seen the majors since the trade and is currently playing for the Rangers AAA affiliate in Round Rock.

Matt Harrison was a highly touted Braves’ prospect at the time of the trade and has had an up-and-down career. He is the Rangers’ No. 3 starter and started the 2011 season 3-0 while going at least seven innings and not allowing more than one run a game.

Neftali Feliz and Elvis Andrus were both just 18 at the time of the trade—Feliz, a rookie-level right handed fireballer, and Andrus, a shortstop in High-A ball. These names, just prospects at the time, have turned into the crown jewels of the trade.

Andrus was ranked by Baseball America as being the Braves No. 2 overall prospect before the trade and was heralded as a possible Gold Glove defender. Jamey Newberg, noted blogger for the Rangers, made this comparison between Andrus and floundering Rangers prospect at the time Joaquin Arias:

“Andrus shows the plus range, plus arm, and fluid hands that Arias has always shown, not to mention the athleticism and promise of offensive productivity as his body matures. He exhibits an advanced ability to use the entire field with the bat, his walk rates are unusually good, and he’s an instinctive player in all phases.”

While Arias, who was chosen over Robinson Cano by the Rangers in the Alex Rodriguez trade, has failed, Andrus has fulfilled much of the promise at a very young age.

Andrus has developed into one of the more exciting players in the game with his incredible range and arm at shortstop. He gets to balls up the middle that have never been gotten to before from other Ranger shortstops. He is a Gold Glove winner waiting in the wings for the baseball community to stop their obsession with Derek Jeter.

Feliz, the 2010 American League Rookie of the Year, has fulfilled all the promise—and then some—for the Rangers. Newberg also wrote this about Feliz at the time of the trade:

“In 29 innings last year, Feliz used a mid-90s fastball that reportedly touches 98 with late life, plus a still-immature slider and change, to hold hitters to a .192 average — and no home runs — issuing 14 walks and punching out 42 hapless opponents. He was at his best down the stretch, logging 11 scoreless innings in four August appearances, scattering four hits and one walk while fanning 15 hitters. At the conclusion of the season, Baseball America judged his fastball to be the best in the entire Braves system, despite just 39 innings of work in his two pro seasons combined.”

Taken from the same article by Newberg, Baseball Prospectus said, “”This is a teenager with a lightning arm who could turn into a frontline starter or a dominant closer, but right now, he’s a teenager with a lightning arm.”

Nail on the head. Feliz has been a lights-out, shutdown closer and set-up man for Texas since his call up in 2009. He owns a .232 ERA and 47 saves while striking out over a batter an inning.

The future is bright for young Feliz, whether as a shutdown closer or future ace of the staff.


The Cliff Lee Trade

The 2010 season was unlike any other in Rangers history. Coming into the season, the Mariners were the talk of the American League West by boasting two of the best pitchers in baseball in Felix Hernandez and Cliff Lee, and the best defense on paper. The A’s were young and talented but still seemed a year away, and the Angels were the incumbent west champions and favorites to repeat.

The Rangers, full of young talent in Andrus and then-setup-reliever Neftali Feliz, were ready to take the next step in their rebuilding process—which began with the Teixeira trade three years prior.

Coming off a scorching hot June, The Rangers found themselves in first place in the west with a growing fan base. All of a sudden, the Rangers had gone from a cellar-dwelling franchise to a playoff contending team—seemingly over night to the rest of the baseball community.

Jon Daniels, however, was not happy with just a playoff contending team, and neither would the emerging fan base. Enter Cliff Lee.

Approaching July 9, it was all but assured that the Yankees would trade top prospect Jesus Montero—along with others—to the Mariners in exchange for Lee. But with the Mariners coveting Rangers first-base prospect Justin Smoak, Daniels and the Rangers come out of nowhere to land Lee and immediately turning the Rangers into serious World Series contenders.

Daniels sent Smoak along with pitchers Blake Beaven and Josh Lueke and infielder Matt Lawson to the Mariners in exchange for Lee and Mark Lowe. Newberg responded to the trade with:

“That Texas landed baseball’s best left-handed pitcher, a proven big game warrior on a short list of the league’s best pitchers, period, without giving up Perez or Scheppers or Holland or Hunter or Ogando is sort of stunning. I understand that Seattle was targeting a young hitter. But I’m still having trouble getting my head wrapped around a deal for a pitcher like this where you part with a young blue-chip position player but don’t have to dip into what is a very deep top tier of your pitching prospect stable – and that’s without even considering that you had to have the Mariners put cash into the deal, something other teams wouldn’t have insisted on.”

In the future, Justin Smoak will be an All-Star for a long time as a Mariner. Everyone in the Rangers organization knew this. But when you feel you’re one piece away from competing for a title, these are the risks you take. There will be many-a-game when Rangers fans will watch Smoak trot around the bases and think about what could have been. But the goal was to reach the playoffs and win a series for the first time in franchise history.

Mission accomplished.  

Jon Daniels has overcome ugly trades early-on in his career to become one of the most talented general managers in all of baseball. Through these trades, Daniels landed Andrus, Cruz, Lee and Feliz while also making room on the roster for second baseman Ian Kinsler.

This is not a concise list of all of Daniels’ successes and failures though. 2010 MVP Josh Hamilton was not even mentioned. Nor was the inability of Daniels to pull the trigger on a trade that would have sent Josh Beckett and Mike Lowell to the Rangers instead of the Red Sox.

Whether he remains in Texas or moves on to other opportunities, Daniels has engraved a winning attitude on this team and this community and will forever be remembered as the architect of the first American League champions in franchise history.

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MLB: Texas Rangers: Nelson Cruz on Cruise Control as Rangers Win Fouth Straight

Monday night at the Ballpark in Arlington, the Rangers handed the Mariners a 6-4 loss to remain undefeated in this young 2011 MLB season.

A decent outing for Derek Holland, as he pitched six innings en route to his first win of the season. He allowed three runs and seven hits with five strikeouts and one walk.

Neftali Feliz who has been getting used, but in his first save opportunity, pitched a three up-three down, to retire the side, and receive his first of what could be many saves this season.

Ex-Ranger Justin Smoak ripped an RBI double to bring the score to 3-2.

But before the Mariners could celebrate, Nelson Cruz remained hot at the plate hitting his fourth home run in as many games to make the score 4-2.

Nelson Cruz joins an elite group, with Willie Mays and Mark McGwire as being the only two other players to start the first four games off with a homer. Who hit five you may ask? No one. So tonight, Cruz has a chance to own a record.

Next up—Alexi Ogando is scheduled to make his major league starting debut tonight against the Mariners. Ogando went 4-1 with a 1.30 ERA, in mostly stretch relief work, for the Rangers in 2010 setting up Neftali Feliz in the closing role.


Some Meat To Marinate On

There are now only four teams in the MLB that are undefeated.

The Rangers and the Orioles are 4-0 while the Red and Phillies are 3-0.

There hasn’t been a start like this for the Rangers sense 1996 when they went 7-0 to start the season.

Obviously, Arlington has been a place where the Rangers are enjoying the success this season. The road will be vital for this team, as home has been their safe haven to this point.

The Rangers will be on the road for the next three series (nine games) after this series with Seattle.

The Rangers start off with a three game series with the Orioles who are also undefeated, as stated earlier. Then it’s off to Detroit for a three game warm-up series, before moving on to the Bronx, and the N.Y. Yankees.

In those nine road games, it will be interesting to see if the Rangers will be able to remain as hot as they have been in the first four games.

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