Feliz gets the save in return to Arlington

Feliz gets the save in return to Arlington

ARLINGTON -- Neftali Feliz didn't get the big crowd of media in his return to Texas that Ian Kinsler received last year. There wasn't quite the same anticipation of him saying something about his former organization, even though the Rangers released him in early July after he'd spent parts of seven seasons in Texas.

He certainly got a reaction when he took the mound with the bases loaded and the heart of the Rangers' order up in the ninth inning of Monday night's 7-4 win, as Texas fans welcomed him back with boos. And with the game on the line, he responded with outs.

"I'm excited for this, coming in to pitch in this game, to face the lineup I played for before," Feliz said. "I tried to save the game."

Feliz battled Prince Fielder for 11 pitches, nine of them fastballs ranging up to 97 mph. Fielder fouled off five of them, plus a slider, before sending a 97-mph heater back through the middle for a two-run single.

Fielder's hit plated two runners Feliz had inherited from Ian Krol, who loaded the bases on a Robinson Chirinos double and back-to-back walks. More important, it brought up former teammate Adrian Beltre as the potential tying run.

What followed was some of Feliz's best pitching of the season. He threw a first-pitch slider for a called strike, setting up a fastball that Beltre swung through and missed. Three pitches later, Beltre hit the fastball on the ground to shortstop Dixon Machado, starting a game-ending double play.

The last time Feliz pitched here, he was a deposed closer who was looking more hittable. His numbers look worse now, but his recent stuff, and recent performances, give the Tigers hope that better times are ahead.

Feliz's stuff, manager Brad Ausmus said prior to the game, is the same he had this summer before he began closing again. The one major adjustment he made since he joined the club came two months ago.

"He has a tendency to pull off with his front side, so we worked on trying to keep him on the target a little longer and slid him over to the other side of the rubber," pitching coach Jeff Jones explained. "It gives his slider a better angle. I don't think he's ever had a great slider, but there's been times in the last couple weeks where it's been really good."

Feliz rarely ever needed a good slider when his fastball was in peak form. His fastball is back up to 97-98 mph, but when his slider has been on, he has been able to use the fastball to set up the slider and bury it.

"Now I use [the fastball] more inside and outside of the plate," Feliz said. "Before I threw it more away, more down. Now it's more back-and-forth."

Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.