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Neftali Feliz Is More Comfortable Closing

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I've [closed] before. I did it in the past. I'm comfortable in that role.

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This is mildly disappointing. While a great closer is certainly a valuable addition, it is not as valuable as a consistent No. 1-caliber pitcher. And most of the best relievers aren't even as valuable as consistent No. 2-caliber guys. If you think Feliz can be more than mediocre as a starter, that's probably the best course of action for a team. Elite relievers have gained a lot of prestige in the modern game, but the potential impact of a starter is much higher.
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It's also not the most damning statement, either. While transitioning to the rotation would certainly be easier if Feliz was gung-ho about it, he's not saying he definitively does not want to start. "Comfortable" is a pretty soft statement, leaving a lot of potential wiggle room for the organization to change his mind. Even beyond that, what's best for the team is more important than what makes Feliz comfortable, and though his comfort should absolutely be taken in to heavy consideration, it also should not -- and I assume will not -- be the final say in the matter.
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Nolan Ryan's quote on the subject per Evan Grant is a bit more disconcerting for me than Feliz's:
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He just said he wasn't comfortable in a new role. Hey, look, he was on the mound for the last out of the American League Championship Series. That's pretty hard to walk away from. And if closing is what he wants do, that's how I look at him.
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It might well just be a simple, uncontroversial, public quote, but the president of the team looking at young players' potentials based on what those players think they want is dangerous. Again, he should care what they want, but he should also see them as what they can be.

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But it's still early in Feliz's life cycle. Who knows what sort of conversations go on behind closed doors, there's no reason to assume he can't change his mind down the line, and he's not even yet 23. Not being a starter in 2011 isn't worth panic; I'd bet he'll be as valuable, if not more so, in the bullpen as he would have been as a starter this year. And if he doesn't want to close now, there's still a few years of development time left to change that.

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Still. . . I really wish he wanted to be. . .

Photographs by jamesbrandon, jdtornow, phlezk, flygraphix, mcdlttx, tomasland, and literalbarrage used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.