The signing of Nathan and reassignment of Feliz might also portend the departure of left-hander C.J. Wilson(notes), the Rangers’ ace and free agent who, as the Nathan news broke, was preparing to dine with front-office members of the AL West-rival Los Angeles Angels.
Wilson, the most attractive starting pitcher in a shallow free-agent class of arms, likely is pricing himself out of Texas, where the rotation without him is Colby Lewis(notes), Derek Holland(notes), Alexi Ogando(notes), Matt Harrison(notes) and, now, Feliz.
Primarily a starter through the minor leagues, Feliz prepared through much of last spring training as a starter. By opening day, however, he had returned to the ninth inning. He struggled in the middle of the season but was dominant the final two months. He then was six for six in postseason save opportunities before Game 6 of the World Series, when he came within a strike of delivering the Rangers’ first championship before the St. Louis Cardinals came back.
The long view of Feliz within the organization was as a starter, even as he totaled 74 saves in a little more than two seasons, and at just 23 years old. Also, Feliz was devastated by the events of Game 6, refusing to address reporters after the game.
So, while this was the plan all along, the timing of the role change worked out as well. The Rangers are particularly adept at converting relievers into starters, in the past two years having worked the same routine with Wilson and Ogando.
They went with Nathan, who turns 37 on Tuesday, for a guaranteed $15 million over two seasons and a third-year option. After missing 2010 because of Tommy John surgery, Nathan was in and out of the closer’s job in Minnesota until the second half, when he finished 23 games, saved 11 of them, had a WHIP of 1.000 and an ERA of 3.91.
Wilson, 31-15 over the past two seasons, or since he became a starting pitcher, has drawn interest from at least a half-dozen clubs in free agency. Along with the Angels, who have been quite aggressive, Wilson’s agent has heard from the Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees, Miami Marlins and Washington Nationals, among others.
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