Rangers have more questions about closer Neftali Feliz

HOUSTON -- In the search to find a closer for 2015, Neftali Feliz continues to have more questions about his abilities for the Texas Rangers.

Sunday afternoon, manager Ron Washington asked Feliz to escape a jam that was created by setup man Neal Cotts.

Cotts lost a 2-1 lead, so with the game tied, Washington needed Feliz to get one out.

Feliz, coming back from Tommy John surgery, didn’t have much velocity while facing three hitters. He allowed a go-ahead, eighth-inning RBI single to Jose Altuve, a man who had four hits on Sunday and has a major league-leading 189 on the season.

The Rangers lost to the Houston Astros 3-2 at Minute Maid Park not so much because the hitters didn’t do enough -- though you have to give credit to Houston starter Dallas Keuchel for his efforts -- but the bullpen struggled.

When Washington lifted starter Nick Martinez after 5⅓ innings on Sunday, he told him he did his job.


Not so much.

"It wasn’t as crisp," Washington said.

Feliz’s velocity is up and down since his return from surgery.

"I feel good [physically]," Feliz said of his outing. "When I take too many days off, my arm doesn’t feel too good."

Feliz last pitched Monday in Seattle.

He entered the game in the eighth inning against the Astros and walked the first man he faced in Robbie Grossman. Feliz’s 3-1 pitch, a fastball, fell into the dirt.

"I tried to throw my pitch down, and I missed my spot," Feliz said of ball four to Grossman.

Washington said the game was lost right there.

Altuve was next, and he hit a 91=mph fastball to center, breaking the tie.

"We shouldn’t have been there," Washington said of the drama. "We should have got Grossman. You don't get beat right there. Grossman has to beat you, not Altuve."

Feliz reiterated his shoulder is strong but he needs to pitch to continue building it up. At times, Feliz is dominant, throwing in the mid- to high-90s, and reminds you of what he once was before the surgery and the switch from bullpen to starting rotation.

General manager Jon Daniels needs answers for 2015, and he watches this team closely every day.

He doesn't want to worry about the closer, who regained the gig when Joakim Soria was traded to the Detroit Tigers. It's a difficult situation to be in for Daniels. Monday in Seattle, Feliz gave up a one-out single in the ninth before retiring the next two hitters on fly outs, including Robinson Cano to end the game. Feliz pitched four days before that, Aug. 20, and allowed two home runs in the ninth inning of a save situation in Miami. Feliz, however, was able to get the save in a 5-4 victory.

So, do Daniels and Washington still want to deal with Feliz and his inconsistency with velocity?

"Still trying to figure it out," Washington said.