Surprise positional outlook: No. 2 starter

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Scott Feldman arrives at spring training in a much different mind-set than a year ago.

Then, Feldman was vying for a rotation spot but ended up in the bullpen. He was simply trying to improve on his 6-8 record and a 5.29 ERA. He was an important innings eater in 2008 and the Rangers expected him to handle a big role as a long man and spot starter in 2009.

"I tried not to get too frustrated when I was in the bullpen," Feldman said. "I wanted to be starting, but it's not going to do any good to complain about it or pout around. I tried to keep a positive attitude and once I did get the chance, I was ready to do it. It's what I wanted to do. "

He got that chance on April 25. After the Kris Benson experiment failed, the Rangers turned to Feldman. He made an immediate impact, coming out of the pen to start and give the club five innings (allowing one run) in a win against Baltimore. It was his first of 17 wins in 2009.

"I think probably at the begining of the year I didn't think I'd win 17 games," Feldman said. "That had a lot to do with the team being good. I felt like if I could just keep improving on 2008 that I'd be OK. I thought if I had an ERA around 4.00, it would have been a good year."

Feldman was a road warrior. He was 12-4 with a 3.56 ERA away from Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. The 12 wins were tied for the most in the majors in 2009 and set a club record. His road ERA was the lowest for a Rangers pitcher with at least 81 road innings since Ken Hill in 1996.

Feldman had a solid arsenal of pitches in 2009: sinker, cutter, curve and changeup. Feldman will spend the spring refining those pitches and making sure they are ready to make an impact again in 2010.

The big question with Feldman: Can he repeat his 2009 success this season?

In terms of record, that's probably unrealistic. But the Rangers see a pitcher who is still learning and still improving. They think he can be even better as an overall player. Feldman isn't spending any time this spring thinking about how many wins he might have in 2010.

"I think you try to build on last year," Feldman said. "I want to go out there and compete and have fun during the games in spring training and try to refine all my pitches and get my location back. I did that last year, too. I think that's part of spring. You go out there and get the feel of playing again."

One other difference for Feldman this spring is that he looks around the clubhouse and sees younger pitchers looking to him for leadership. He was the Rangers' top starter last season, and with that comes even more respect from others, not to mention questions about how he goes about his business.

"Last year, pitchers followed Kevin Millwood around," general manager Jon Daniels said. "This year, I see them following Scott Feldman around."

Feldman remains the same humble guy. He's confident, certainly. But he just goes about his business, works hard and does everything he can to help make the team better. We'll see if that translates into another solid season on the mound.

How do you think Feldman will do this season?