After letting Joe Nathan leave to the Detroit Tigers via free agency, the Texas Rangers are going to look to former closer Neftali Feliz to handle the end-of-game duties. After manning the position earlier in his career, the Rangers moved him to the starting rotation. He looked to be a key part in the rotation last season, but elbow surgery ended his season before he could get it going. While he’s gearing up for his vital role on this year’s team, which figures to be a World Series contender, he took the time to talk to MLB Nation.
What have you been working on this offseason to prepare yourself for the season ahead?
I’ve been working very hard on my mechanics and getting my arm slot higher while keeping my glove down. Also, I worked very hard on improving my secondary pitches.
Has your control been one of the main targets now that you’ll be coming out of the bullpen?
Control is always important and something I always work on.
Over the past couple of years, the Rangers have had one of the best closers in the game in Joe Nathan. Did you pick up anything from him as far as your approach to closing goes?
Yes, he taught me to focus on being consistent in everything I do.
Will your experience as a starter impact your closing?
Yes, my experience as a starter taught me the importance of utilizing my secondary pitches more.
What was the toughest part about your rehab?
To trust myself and forget about the surgery. Also, not being out on the field helping my teammates win.
As far as how long you’ve been on the team, you’re one of the more experienced members of the pitching staff. Do you see yourself as a team leader?
Yes, and that is why it was so tough not being out there with my guys.
What can you do to help the younger guys on the staff transition to the majors?
I try to explain to never give up, keep working hard, and believe in yourself. I consistently tell myself the same things.
Do you have a preference between starting and closing?
No, whatever the team wants me to do I will do it. I want to help the team wherever they think I need to be.
Are there any particular players that give you trouble when you go up against them?
Every major league hitter is good, but no one specifically gives me trouble.
What is your opinion on the moves the team made during the offseason?
Our management made a lot of good moves and we are prepared to win the World Series.
Earlier in your career, you were traded from Atlanta to Texas. What was your reaction to this move?
Both organizations are very successful. I never thought I was going to get traded but my focus was only to get to the major leagues and to do the best I can.
What were your emotions when you stepped onto the field for your first MLB game?
It was a very special moment and I was happy. I accomplished a very important goal of mine but I knew I had a long way to go.
What would you say is the toughest part about being a major league baseball player?
The toughest part is being consistent and staying in the big leagues because so many players get to the big leagues but not everyone has a long career.
Do you have any advice for kids who want to play in the majors someday?
It is a beautiful thing to play in the big leagues and not everyone can do it. You have to believe in yourself and be consistent in everything you do.
Thanks for reading.