Closing Time: 101 reasons to enjoy Neftali Feliz

As major league debuts go, a reliever can't deliver a line much better than this: two innings, no hits, no walks, four Ks. Those were Neftali Feliz's(notes) numbers from Monday night.

There are plenty of logical reasons to discount the 21-year-old's performance, of course. It was just two innings against the A's, one of the American League's least productive lineups. And one of the Ks was Jack Cust(notes). Everyone strikes him out.

Still, there's no such thing as an unimpressive 101 miles an hour. That was the radar reading for Feliz's final pitch: 101. He hit triple-digits more than once, actually, and touched 99 eight other times. Feliz faced the top of the Oakland batting order in the sixth inning and struck out the side (all swinging). He then punched out Cust, coaxed a groundball from Ryan Sweeney(notes) and a foul pop from Tommy Everidge(notes). Two innings into his big league career, Feliz remains perfect. He entered the season as the top prospect in Texas' system according to Baseball America, so the success isn't a complete surprise.

Feliz will be a starter long-term, and presumably a good one. But over the final two months of the 2009 season, he'll be a member of the Rangers' bullpen. If he brings tonight's stuff to the ballpark every day, he'll be simply unfair.

He should have been a sideshow in a game that featured a walkoff triple from Rajai Davis(notes), eight strikeouts from Brett Anderson(notes), five innings of one-hit ball from Dustin Nippert(notes) and a rare blown save from CJ Wilson(notes). But in the fantasy community -- or at least among dynasty owners -- Feliz was the story. Everything else was distraction.

Elsewhere, it was a challenging day for American League Cy Young candidates. Zack Greinke(notes) allowed season highs in both hits (10) and runs (6), while Justin Verlander(notes) gave up five earned in his first inning of work against the Orioles. But because they're exceptional, both pitchers still found ways to help fantasy owners. Greinke managed to get nine Ks in his worst start of the season; Verlander pitched seven scoreless frames after the five-run first, finishing with eight strikeouts.

After back-to-back drubbings, Kevin Gregg(notes) will sit for at least two nights with "a tired arm." Here's Lou Piniella, via

"Hopefully, we can give him some time off tonight and tomorrow. He has a little bit of a tired arm. There's no pain in any particular area, but just achy."

Carlos Marmol(notes) earned the save on Monday in Gregg's absence, though he made it look much more difficult than it should have been. Marmol's fastball does not obey him at all times. He walked the lead-off man in the ninth, tried like heck to walk Wladimir Balentien(notes) to no avail, hung a series of sliders to Alex Gonzalez, and generally flirted with disaster. If I would have been slightly quicker on the screen grab, I'd have captured a fantastic image of Piniella ready to combust on the dugout steps. After Marmol's wildly inefficient 36-pitch effort, it's not clear that he'll be available on Tuesday. John Grabow(notes) could get the nod in the ninth.

Parents, if you're going to take your kids to PETCO Park and let 'em play in that weird sandbox in right field, please stay alert when Kyle Blanks(notes) is at the plate. The gigantic rookie (6-6, 285) hit an opposite field bomb on Monday that barely missed several unsuspecting children (pictured left). I don't blame the kids for not watching when the Padres are hitting; that's just a failure of supervision. Blanks now has six homers in 94 at-bats.

Mat Latos(notes) earned his third straight win for the Pads, going seven innings against Atlanta and striking out three. The 21-year-old has been better than advertised, though GM Kevin Towers has said that the team, "more than likely will shut him down in September."

Prospect of interest Brian Matusz(notes) will start for Baltimore on Tuesday against Jarrod Washburn(notes) and the Tigers. The left-hander went 7-0 for Double-A Bowie with a 1.55 ERA and 46 Ks in 46.1 innings. He was the first pitcher selected in the 2008 MLB Draft (No. 4 overall), so the long-range expectations are high. For fantasy, same drill as with Tillman: you hope for a nice debut, then try to sell. The O's have a murderous end-of-season schedule.

Here's a fun fact, unless you're a Mets fan: after Monday's two-homer performance, Mark Reynolds(notes) has hit as many home runs in Citi Field this year (4) as David Wright(notes).

It's not technically an injury blog, but if it were: Nelson Cruz(notes) limped away from the final play in the loss to the A's, and he was assisted by a trainer. He's stuck on 25 home runs at the moment, and Evans needs just one more. ...Brandon Webb(notes) underwent successful surgery on his shoulder, and according to the Diamondbacks' Web site, the procedure "revealed that he did not have any tears in his labrum." This is good news, long-term. ... Following Tommy John surgery, Edinson Volquez will miss at least 12 months. Here's Reds trainer Mark Mann, via the Cincinnati Enquirer: "It will most likely be 2011 before you see the old Edinson Volquez(notes) is back." ... Roy Oswalt(notes) (back) will miss Tuesday's start, and Sunday is in doubt as well. ... Geovany Soto(notes) (oblique) should be activated this week, perhaps as soon as Wednesday. ... Carlos Beltran(notes) (knee) says that he's still sticking to the return-in-two-weeks plan, despite feeling discomfort while fielding fly balls on Monday.

Programming note: On Tuesday, Matt Romig will handle America's favorite blog post, Nine Unassisted™. For a day, he can receive your thanks and take all the glory.


Photo via US Presswire

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