Rangers Set Rotation, Feliz Will Close in 2011
After weeks of going back and forth with the rotation the Rangers have finally set the starting five with a week left to go in Spring Training.
The Rangers have announced the rotation to open the season will be CJ Wilson, Colby Lewis, Tommy Hunter, Derek Holland and Matt Harrison.
The Rangers of course made reading the tea leaves on this one relatively easy when they optioned Michael Kirkman to AAA Round Rock and scratched Feliz from what was supposed to be his final attempt to secure a rotation spot tonight.
Neftali Feliz made what many, including myself, believe was a rather convincing case to be in the Rangers rotation, but bullpen issues appear to have postponed that until 2012.
No doubt Feliz has starter potential, Rangers brass admit that, but the team obviously isn't comfortable with the in house options at closer and Jon Daniels doesn't have enough time to find an experienced closer on the trade market.
As for the three starters behind Lewis in the rotation, they have about eight weeks to prove they belong in the big league rotation while Brandon Webb continues his comeback from shoulder surgery.
Despite a small setback for Webb this week and barring any other issues, he's still expected to join the Rangers rotation sometime in May sending the least effective starter back to the minors.
Derek Holland isn't a big surprise as the lefty has had the best spring training of the Rangers pitchers not named Feliz and the Rangers need to see once and for all if he's going to be an effective big league starter.
No doubt this is a huge year for Holland as he'll either establish himself as a big league starter or end up back in the minors with other prospects likely passing him on the depth chart.
Tommy Hunter gets the nod for past performances during the regular season despite an ineffective postseason last year and a rough spring training, both of which are cause for concern.
I'm on record saying Hunter should be the long man in the pen and only time will tell if that's where he ends up when Webb is ready to return.
I'm not really sure what to think about the Rangers decision to put Harrison in the rotation.
I'm sure they'll be quick to point out his spring training performance but was it really that spectacular?
Like his entire career Harrison showed flashes of brilliance this spring as well as stretches where he couldn't find the strike zone to save his life.
The main issue I've noticed is there isn't a gray area with Harrison, he's either dead on and unhittable or he makes Wild Thing Rick Vaughn look like Greg Maddux.
Hopefully things will be different and Harrison will be a consistent starter for the Rangers beyond two or three starts, but I've seen this movie before and so have the Rangers.
The good news in all of this is the back of the Rangers bullpen is beyond solid.
Feliz could have an even better year closing than last year and Ogando in the 8th gives the Rangers a lethal one-two punch at the end of ballgames.
Of course Feliz would have also looked pretty good slotted behind Lewis in the rotation, but we'll have to wait a year to see Feliz at the beginning of games.
For now he'll still be pitching at the end of them.