Rangers-Twins Preview

The Associated Press

The first major league start for Texas' Neftali Feliz was an overwhelming success.

To be considered a successful starting pitcher, however, he'll need to string together several strong outings over the course of the season.

The converted reliever looks to build on an impressive performance and help the Rangers pull off their first series sweep in Minnesota in more than a dozen years Sunday against the Twins.

After serving as Texas' closer and converting 72 of 81 save situations over the last two seasons, manager Ron Washington decided to move Feliz (1-0, 0.00 ERA) to the starting rotation this year. After one outing, the decision looks like it could be a good one.

The 2010 AL Rookie of the Year allowed four hits and two walks in seven innings of a 1-0 win over Seattle on Tuesday.

"I was trying to throw all my pitches and keep them low and I did that," Feliz told the Rangers' official website. "There is a big difference between being a closer and being a starter. As a starter you have to think and be calm and execute."

A starter also must pitch deep into games every fifth day, something that will be a new challenge for the right-hander. Against the Mariners, Feliz threw 108 pitches - the first time he tossed more than 42.

He has made eight career appearances against Minnesota, allowing three runs and seven hits over 8 2-3 innings.

Texas' new closer, former Twin Joe Nathan, is off to a somewhat rocky start, but he got the final three outs in Saturday's 6-2 win after giving up hits to Justin Morneau and Josh Willingham to open the inning.

Josh Hamilton, Adrian Beltre, Nelson Cruz and Brandon Snyder had three hits apiece Saturday for the Rangers (7-2), who won Friday's opener 4-1. Texas was 1-9 at Target Field in the ballpark's first two years and hasn't swept a series in Minnesota since 1999.

Hamilton hit his third homer and doubled twice Saturday after batting .250 with two extra-base hits in his first 10 games at Target Field.

The Rangers and Twins each finished with 13 hits Saturday, but Minnesota (2-6) left 15 runners on base and failed to score with the bases loaded on three occasions. Ryan Doumit left seven runners on base and Chris Parmelee stranded five.

The Twins' offense seemed to be coming around with a combined 16 runs in wins over the Los Angeles Angels on Wednesday and Thursday, but it has since totaled three runs. Minnesota has scored two or fewer in each of its losses.

"The past few games, we haven't been getting hits, stringing them together," said Willingham, who is batting .444 and has hit safely in each of the Twins' eight games.

Joe Mauer is batting .182 in the losses, but he's 3 for 4 with a double against Feliz. The other six players on the Twins roster who have faced Feliz are a combined 0 for 12 with four walks.

Minnesota counters with Liam Hendriks, who is set to make his season debut after being scratched from his start last Sunday in Baltimore because of food poisoning.

In spring training, Hendriks appeared in eight games - four starts - and allowed eight runs and 23 hits over 25 1-3 innings. He struck out 17 and walked six.

The right-hander made his major league debut as a September call-up last season, going 0-2 with a 6.17 ERA in four starts.

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