SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Who will be the Rangers’ closer if Neftali Feliz is in the starting rotation?
Manager Ron Washington indicated that the answer to that question probably isn’t in Surprise at the moment.
“I have confidence in Jon Daniels and our scouts,” Washington said Tuesday morning. “If that’s the case, I’m 100 percent sure they’ll go out there and find somebody to close ballgames down for us.”
Washington likes the depth in his bullpen. He just doesn’t know whether anybody other than Feliz, who had a rookie-record 40 saves last season, can handle the closer role on a consistent basis.
And the Rangers, who intend to earn another pennant, don’t want to deal with uncertainty in such an important role.
“Who do we have in our bullpen that’s closed ballgames down?” Washington said, knowing that Feliz is the only pitcher on the roster with a double-digit career saves total. “We ain’t talking about ‘might be able to.’ This ain’t about ‘might be able to close a ballgame down.’ We need somebody that’s bona fide to close ballgames down. But, like I said, if we need to stay in-house, we’ll figure that out.”
That appears to the the organizational line of thinking. Team president/CEO Nolan Ryan expressed the same concern Monday afternoon.
"We don't have a defined closer right now to step in that position," Ryan said. "Obviously, we have some talent that might be able to do it, but we don't have somebody in mind."
Hard-throwing right-handers Mark Lowe and Alexi Ogando are likely the leading in-house candidates. They’ve combined for a grand total of four career saves, all by Lowe. Maybe Tanner Scheppers, another hard-throwing righty, can eventually fill that role, but he’s yet to throw a pitch in the big leagues. Lefties Arthur Rhodes and Darren Oliver are set-up guys, plain and simple.
“I feel comfortable with all our relief pitchers, but we’re talking about a closer,” Washington said. “You know, those guys can probably close games, and if we have to, we’ll find someone. But I’m more than certain that Jon Daniels will find us a closer, not a seventh- or eighth-inning pitcher.”
If not, that might be a good reason not to put Feliz in the rotation.