Healthy Feliz vying to return to ranks of top closers

Offseason workout has righty stopper optimistic

Healthy Feliz vying to return to ranks of top closers

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Rangers closer Neftali Feliz showed some fire in saving a 3-0 victory over the Giants on Friday. Feliz, pitching the ninth inning, retired the first two batters easily on a grounder and a strikeout.

Then he gave up a double to infielder Matt Duffy. Wanting to protect the shutout, Feliz got mad and struck out Jarrett Parker to end the inning.

"There was some emotion, I like that," manager Jeff Banister said. "There was a little more energy level, a little more agitation. He dialed it up. Closers need that element. There was some intent in that last at-bat."

It was only Feliz's second outing of the spring. His other appearance was also a scoreless inning. Feliz hasn't kicked it into regular season intensity yet but he said he is seeing a difference after an offseason working with a personal trainer.

"I feel really good because of the experience and the extra work," Feliz said. "It has made me feel a lot better when I'm pitching."

A year ago Feliz came to camp hoping to regain his role as closer. He had missed almost two years while recovering from Tommy John elbow reconstruction surgery and the Rangers thought he was ready to move back into the closer's role.

Instead he didn't even make the team. He spent the first three months of the season in Triple-A Round Rock, trying to smooth out his delivery and regain his velocity. He didn't get back to the big leagues until July and didn't regain the closer's role until the final two months of the season. He finished well, saving 13 of 14 opportunities with a 1.99 ERA.

Feliz slams the door

The Rangers still remember when Feliz saved 72 games in 2010-11 as one of the best closers in the game. They want to see him get back to that level. So does Feliz.

"Of course I want to be the best there is," Feliz said. "In 2010 and 2011, I was considered one of the best. I want to do that again as well as help the team to get to the World Series.

"That's the most important thing. Get the last out."

He did that on Friday in a Cactus League game. But the Rangers liked the fire he showed.

T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields, and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.