Mike Maddux knew what to expect from the gaggle of reporters throwing microphones in his face. The press peppered the Rangers pitching coach with many variations of the same question.
Will Neftali Feliz start this season and if not will he ever?
Maddux let them ask their questions in every way possible and quickly put the issue to bed for the near future.
There is no debate within the organization about Feliz’s role on the club this season; the best five guys will make the rotation with the rest heading to the bullpen or AAA Oklahoma City.
The Rangers rotation has not been set yet. In fact, only Rich Harden and Scott Feldman’s position at the top of the rotation has been written in pen. The other three spots remain fluid.
Sure, Colby Lewis and Tommy Hunter appear to have a leg up on their competition, but a bad spring and they could find themselves at AAA before the Rangers break camp.
The Rangers don’t expect this and neither do I so they are “penciled” into the rotation, but there’s no guarantee they will follow Feldman in the third and fourth spots.
A hot spring from Brandon McCarthy or Derek Holland could vault them to the third spot in the rotation.
No one knows how this will finish up for the Rangers by the end of March, and that’s one of the points Maddux was trying to make using Feliz as an example.
Take a straw poll among Rangers fans and you’ll find Holland and Feliz getting the most votes for the fifth spot in the rotation and neither has thrown a pitch in a game yet this spring.
This isn’t their fault of course, Rangers fans have gotten so used to rebuilding and prospect development they simply haven’t changed gears yet. So I’m going to try and help with that.
The veterans like Michael Young have joined the front office and coaching staff in making things very clear about the upcoming season. The Rangers are done with the mindset of the past. They no longer hope to win, they expect it.
Therefore, 2010 isn’t about development of players at the major league level. Players who will help the team win this year will make the team, the rest will be sent to AAA for more practice.
If Holland or Feliz aren’t ready to win now, they will be sent down. If Lewis fails to adjust to Major League hitters, he’ll be sent down. Granted, the odds of that happening are slim, but it is the reality facing all of these players as the first full squad workout approaches.
Maddux was the latest this offseason to state the obvious to anyone following this team. Rebuilding has been completed, now it’s time to take the best 25 guys and go to battle for the AL West crown.
The Mariners and Angels aren’t thinking about developing players at the major league level and the Rangers are finally in position to concentrate on winning over any other issue.
All Rangers fans, as well as the media following this team, need to understand this as the Rangers begin ironing out the roster throughout March.
If Feliz is sent to the bullpen, it is not an indication that his entire career will be spent there; it’s just where he helps the Rangers the best for the upcoming season.
The same could be said for Derek Holland. If he starts the year in the AAA rotation he’ll likely be the first call-up when the Rangers need a starter, which let’s face it, is a likely occurrence if McCarthy joins Harden in the rotation.
The Rangers are very fortunate their 40 man roster is filled with talent that could make many of the active rosters throughout baseball. Their considerable depth will help them overcome the various injuries that hit throughout a 162 game season.
For now, the Rangers will find their best 25 guys and suit up for the tough race ahead. The AL West could be the hardest division in baseball to win this season and the Rangers have to play their best baseball out of the gate.
Development can now take place where it belongs, in the minor leagues.