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Neftali Feliz put up his shortest start of the season Friday against the Houston Astros, and he explained that he never felt comfortable on the bump, allowing five walks and one hit batsmen in 4 2/3 frames. His release point was off, too, suggesting he was compensating for the injury. Turns out he's dealing with elbow inflammation that has landed him on the 15-day disabled list.
The 24-year-old Dominican flamethrower has made a relatively smooth transition to the rotation this year with the help of esteemed pitching guru Mike Maddux. In his seven starts he has an ERA of 3.16 with 37 strikeouts in 42 2/3 innings. His K/9 of 7.80 is currently identical to his 2011 output, and he's walking more per nine (4.85) than he has in his big league career.
The move from the bullpen to the rotation was expected to curtail his dominance, and if it weren't for a low hit rate (.213) and an extremely fortunate strand rate (82.6 percent), things might not be looking so peachy.
It was clear from the onset that Texas wanted to be as cautious as possible regarding Feliz's workload; he was shut down temporarily in spring training with shoulder tightness and opened in the No. 5 post in the rotation. Rather than letting him pitch through discomfort now, they'll gladly push him to the infirmary and save some innings. His fantasy owners can't argue that rest might be the most productive thing for him at this juncture.
Long relief man Scott Feldman will make Feliz's scheduled start against the Seattle Mariners. He's been an asset out of the bullpen for the Rangers, posting an ERA of 3.00 with just seven K's in 15 innings. His K/9 of 4.20 shows he isn't missing bats often or blowing people away, which isn't exactly what you want to see from a pitcher who makes his home at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington.
Feldman makes his living pitching to contact and relying on his defense, so he's really only worth an investment in AL-only leagues - or as a deep mixed spot starter - unless Feliz's stay on the DL is extended for whatever reason, assuming Feldman is trusted in that role long term.
Alexi Ogando would be the best bet to enter the starting rotation picture if Feliz's injury turns out to be much more serious, but it's unclear if Ron Washington wants to risk weakening the bullpen as a result. Ogando proved himself worthy of the rotation last season despite petering out in the second half due to fatigue issues. He's making opposing hitters look absurdly bad this year (1.13 ERA, 25 K's, five BBs in 24 innings).
For now, expect Feldman to fill in for a couple of starts in the short term. Ogando, or possibly free-agent Roy Oswalt, is a better long-term bet to sub for Feliz if need be, with the former supplying you with much more dominance and upside.
About Keith Hernandez
Keith, an editor with KFFL, joined the team as a Hot off the Wire analyst in 2008 and has been playing fantasy sports since 2005. He is involved in MLB, NFL and NASCAR content. He graduated from the University of California-San Diego in 2005 with a B.A. in Communications and was a four-year starter as a member of the baseball program.
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