Rangers stud prospect Neftali Feliz made his big-league debut last night and the 21-year-old right-hander did not disappoint, getting swinging strikeouts on each of the first four batters he faced while tossing two perfect innings of relief to protect a 1-0 lead against the A's.
Feliz had been a full-time starter since coming to the Rangers from the Braves as part of the mid-2007 haul for Mark Teixeira, but shifted to the bullpen at Triple-A recently in preparation for a possible second-half role in Texas. If things go smoothly his long-term home remains atop the rotation, but the Rangers no doubt had visions of Francisco Rodriguez's amazing 2002 debut with the Angels when they called Feliz up Sunday.
Feliz averaged 98.8 miles per hour with his fastball last night, hitting triple-digits on the radar gun multiple times and clocking in at 101 mph on his 30th and final pitch. In addition to an absolutely overpowering fastball Feliz also flashed a high-80s changeup/splitter that had Oakland hitters equally baffled and threw 21 of 30 pitches for strikes after walking 3.9 batters per nine innings in the minors.
Ultimately the development of his off-speed stuff and ability to throw strikes will determine whether Feliz can become a top-of-the-rotation starter, but in the meantime it's not hard to envision him simply blowing away hitters in the seventh and eighth innings down the stretch. Not only can he light up a radar gun, Feliz's delivery is so easy and the ball explodes out of his hand to make life just a little more miserable for hitters.
Plus, he looks great with that pink backpack on.