ARLINGTON -- There was much talk early in Spring Training about who would replace Kevin Millwood as the leader of the Rangers' pitching staff. Scott Feldman was the logical candidate. The Rangers affirmed that last week when they made him their Opening Day starter and confirmed it again on Friday when they signed Feldman to a two-year, $11.5 million contract extension with an option for a third season. Feldman, who will make $2.425 million this year, will go to $4.4 million in 2011 and $6.5 million in '12. The club holds a $9.25 million option for '13 with a $600,000 buyout.
"We've talked about committing to a core group of young players to be a part of a championship team this year and beyond," general manager Jon Daniels said at a press conference. "Usually it's a position player, but it's notable that today we're sitting next to a starting pitcher. "Scott Feldman came through our system, he's going through a few different styles and different roles, now he's our Opening Day pitcher, and we think he'll be a big part of our team for years to come." The contract allows Feldman to avoid the arbitration process for the next two seasons. If the Rangers exercise the option, it will also buy out his first season of free agency. Feldman is now one of just four Rangers who have a guaranteed contract beyond this season. The others are infielders Michael Young and Ian Kinsler and pitcher Colby Lewis. "It's a good feeling," Feldman said. "I wouldn't say it's overwhelming, but it's nice to know the front office and the coaching staff believes in you ... and your teammates, too." The Rangers talked to Feldman about a multiyear deal in the offseason. They resumed discussions about a month ago and talks accelerated in the past week. Feldman was 17-8 with a 4.08 ERA in 31 starts and three relief appearances for the Rangers in 2009, earning the team's Pitcher of the Year honors in his second season as a starter. He was taken in the 30th round of the 2003 First-Year Player Draft out of the College of San Mateo (Calif.) and worked his way through the Rangers system out of the bullpen. He spent a couple of years with the Rangers as a sidearm right-handed reliever before then-pitching coach Mark Connor suggested he go back to a three-quarters delivery. Feldman did so, and at the end of the 2008 Spring Training, the Rangers decided to turn him into a starter. They planned on having him learn his craft in the Minors, but Feldman was pressed into service as a starter at the Major League level. He was 6-8 with a 5.25 ERA in 25 starts and three relief appearances in '08. He started last season in the bullpen as a middle reliever, but again, need pushed him into the rotation and he was one of five pitchers in the American League to win at least 17 games. "This goes back to the way he approached his job in 2008," club president Nolan Ryan said. "The improvements we saw, then last spring when we asked him to go to the bullpen and the way he handled that. Then he went back into the rotation and continued the improvements we saw. The work ethic he represents is what we want to see in all our pitchers." That's also what makes him the leader of the Rangers' pitching staff. "However people want to look at it, I still want to go out and prepare and just put my team in the best possible situation to win," Feldman said. "Hopefully we have five guys who are capable of making all their starts and controlling the tempo of the game that day. This is my first full season of starting. I just want to keep improving and be on a good team. Those are my two goals."
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.