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SURPRISE—Everyone has the right to change their mind and Neftali Feliz exercised his Monday.

The Rangers right-hander reversed field better than Adrian Peterson and said he would like the opportunity to begin the season in the starting rotation. Feliz made his remarks after holding a Dodgers' lineup that included no regulars to one run and three hits in four innings with one walk and five strikeouts in a 5-4 victory in a Cactus League game at Surprise Stadium.

That was directly opposite to Feliz's comments following his previous start. He said then that he would prefer to remain the closer. Feliz thrived in that role last season, posting 4.5 WARP, winning the American League Rookie of the Year and helping the Rangers to their first AL pennant.

So what changed? Feliz, through a translator, said that he is now more comfortable throwing a cut fastball. That would give him a needed third pitch as a starter to go along with fastball and curveball. Feliz is also working on a changeup.

"I'm more comfortable as a starting pitcher," Feliz said. "That is what I did until I got to the major leagues."

The Rangers are a sabermetrically savvy organization and realize that the 22-year-old Feliz would be more valuable pitching 180 innings as a starter this season than 75 in relief. They also need help in the rotation as left-hander C.J. Wilson and right-hander Colby Lewis are the only set starters less than three weeks before Opening Day. Furthermore, the Rangers' brass feels set-up reliever Mark Lowe could move into the closer's role now that his recovered from last year's back surgery.

Rangers manager Ron Washington would love Feliz in either role, saying "whatever he wants to do, he has to have his heart into it. That's the move important thing."

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Edwincnelson
3/15
I said it in another thread and I'll say it here. Closers don't get 100 million dollar contracts. I think as soon as that was explained to him starting seemed like the way to go.
TheRedsMan
3/15
It's interesting to hear the Rangers described as a "sabermetrically savvy organization". I'm not sure exactly what was meant by the phrase, but I think it probably refers less to "stats" and more to "making decisions based on evidence and careful analysis". If so, it would be great to see the non saber-friendly crowd be introduced to the idea that advanced stats are only one tool in the sabermetric toolbox.
Jquinton82
3/15
JP, interested to know where you think he ends up given his change of heart and lack of a proven closer. Does this put all signs firmly pointing to his joining the rotation or is it still up in the air?
mpet29
3/15
I still think his future is in the rotation, but his 2011 is probably in the bullpen. I couldn't help but chuckle at Ron Washington's quote that if Feliz goes to the rotation, he wants an experienced closer.. as though the inexperienced Feliz didn't crush it for him last year.
ostrowj1
3/16
To be fair, I am sure if he had the choice between an MLB-ready top pitching prospect and Brian Fuentes he would use the prospect... Given the bullpen he currently has, I can understand his desire to want a little more experience.
Jquinton82
3/17
couldn't they just use Ogando and Lowe as stop gaps and promote Scheppers mid-season if the first two aren't getting it done? Maybe I'm getting ahead of things there with Scheppers... but unless I'm missing something here I don't see how they put Feliz back in the pen... just doesn't make sense to me.
BrewersTT
3/18
Washington can pencil the name Feliz into his rotation, and the name Verducci into his rolodex.
brandonmohon
3/22
Good call on the Verducci article. That's a great read.
brandonmohon
3/22
Wash is saying the right things as a manager. He is a player's coach. But the move is obvious. As stated in the article, would you rather your best pitcher tally 180 innings or 70 innings? And the closer role is so overrated. What are the percentages of an average closer closing out the win with a 3-run lead, a 2-run lead, and a 3-run lead? My gut tells me the difference between an elite closer and an average one aren't that great.
brandonmohon
3/22
*1-run lead--said 3-run lead twice.