WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- When right-hander Michael Feliz is elevating his fastball and pitching with confidence, he can be a devastating member of the Astros' bullpen. Witness last year when he posted a 0.54 ERA, struck out 26 in 16 2/3 innings and held opponents to a .074 in 10 appearances in May.
Feliz, 23, appears to be a near-lock as a long-relief option following his up-and-down rookie season in which he threw 65 innings, allowed 32 earned runs and struck out 95. He established a club rookie record with 13.15 strikeouts per nine innings.
"He's very versatile, he's got a starter's background, so multiple innings out of the 'pen are going to be big," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "I see him in a competition with a few relievers depending on how the balance of the bullpen goes. He's got a leg up because he missed so many bats last year."
Feliz threw more than one inning 19 times in his 47 relief outings, including a 4 1/3-inning outing in the second game of the season (in relief of Collin McHugh) and a trio of three-inning outings. That included a seven-strikeout outing in three innings against the White Sox on July 2.
"He can really throw his fastball up and got a lot of swings and misses and some soft contact," Hinch said. "We've got some boys that have good fastballs in the 'pen, and he's one of the best ones. But as his slider comes -- and I know he's messing around with a changeup -- strikeouts are going to be the key for him. He can't be just a thrower and needs to be able to pitch a little bit. The elevated fastball is a difference-maker."
Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.