"He was telling me, 'Don't every try to throw guys out. We want to try to get ground balls,'" Feldman said. "He told me that's what he did. I was trying to throw as many strikes as I could, get ahead of guys. He told me strikeouts happen pretty much by accident, and that's what happened [Monday]. I guess there's a reason he won a lot of games."
So without trying, Feldman struck out nine Monday, pitching against a group of mainly Reds minor leaguers. Still, it was an impressive display and a reminder of how valuable Feldman is to the club as an insurance policy. With Neftali Feliz slated to start in a minor league game to be sure his stiff shoulder is fine, Feldman and Alexi Ogando give the club a safety net.
(As an aside, at this point if something happened to one of the five starters, I'd be tempted to keep Ogando in the bullpen and start Feldman. But that's just me.)
"Outstanding," manager Ron Washington said. "Had a good fastball, good cutter and he did what he wanted to do with the ball out there. He had a good breaking ball, his thought process was outstanding."
Feldman had all of his pitches working Monday, including a two-seamer that was coming in to left-handed hitters and a curveball that had some hitters guessing. Washington was particularly pleased that Feldman was able to pitch inside effectively.
"I was able to move my fastball to both sides of the plate," Feldman said. "I was able to command most of my stuff pretty good, and that's something you've got to be able to do is throw everything for a strike so guys can't sit on certain pitches in certain counts."
Feldman said he expected to feel pretty good with his knee fully healthy this spring, and that's what's happened.
"My arm strength is coming around," Feldman said. "Everybody goes through that dead arm period in spring training, but I'm kind of past that now and feeling pretty good."
As an insurance policy, Feldman is certainly expensive. He'll cost the club $6.5 million this year and then a $600,000 buyout for 2013 (club option is for $9.25 million). But for this season, he could prove to be an important piece going forward. He can be a long reliever and spot starter and is capable of eating innings if needed. Let's not forget: He won 17 games in 2009. And he's healthy and ready to contribute for all of 2012.