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Feliz wavers about closing permanently

Feliz wavers about closing permanently

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OAKLAND -- Rangers closer Neftali Feliz, on the disabled list with shoulder inflammation, does not want to be a starting pitcher anymore. At least, he told a reporter from USA Today that before Sunday's game with the Athletics.

After the game, Feliz spoke with reporters from Texas and backtracked on his statement. He was more vague about his future.

"Right now, I'm focused on being healthy and getting back to being the closer," Feliz said.

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As to whether he wants another chance to start next season, Feliz said, "Right now, I'm not even worried about that. Right now, I'm just focused on being the closer. Right now, I'm trying to get back healthy. I'm not thinking about being a starter or not being a starter."

Feliz was asked about it after the game because on Sunday morning he told Jorge Ortiz of USA Today that he made the decision that he wanted to be a closer for the rest of his career.

"I spent most of spring training as a starter and I enjoyed it," Feliz told Ortiz. "But I'm a closer now, and God willing I'll remain a closer the rest of my career. I made the decision that I won't start anymore."

Feliz told USA Today he is concerned that the inflammation was caused by his being moved to the rotation this spring and he doesn't want to do that again in the future. He wasn't going to start this season, anyway, but if it's up to him, he'll remain a reliever for the rest of his career.

"The team has told me that next year I would still have the chance to start, but I don't want to do it anymore," Feliz told USA Today. "This year my arm didn't feel good after they moved me from the rotation back to closing, so I don't want to go through that again and risk the same thing happening."

Feliz, who was a starter in the Minor Leagues, saved 40 games for the Rangers in 2010. The Rangers brought him to Spring Training with the idea of stretching him out as a starter. He ended up pitching 17 innings, but the Rangers decided they would rather have him as their closer for 2011.

When the Rangers made the announcement towards the end of Spring Training, they said that Feliz would be given another look as a starter in 2012. The Rangers also suggested they would use next offseason to find somebody who could potentially take over as closer if Feliz went into the rotation.

Feliz was asked after the game if he would start next year if the Rangers asked him to do that.

"We'll see how this year goes," Feliz said. "I'm focused on being a closer. At the end of the year, we'll talk about it again."

General manager Jon Daniels indicated that it wasn't an issue right now.

"It's not something we're looking at right now," Daniels said. "He's the closer this year and we'll address 2012 once 2011 is over. Our feelings on the topic haven't changed. We'll take his feelings, as well as team need and other factors, into consideration over the winter. He actually makes a pretty good case for starting by suggesting relieving is more physically demanding.

"We'll look at that in the offseason. My understanding is Neftali had what he felt was normal soreness for part of spring but didn't feel it was worth mentioning to the medical staff until he tightened up in the cold in New York. We've been very cautious with him since that came to light."

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.

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