Reliever Neftali Feliz has good debut with Tigers

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News
Neftali Feliz

Minneapolis – The Tigers, for the third time in two years, have turned to a former Texas Rangers closer to add some muscle to a faltering bullpen.

First Joe Nathan, then Joakim Soria, and on Saturday they signed 27-year-old Neftali Feliz, who saved 40 games for the Rangers in 2010 and was a big part of their back-to-back World Series appearances in 2010 and 2011.

"I am not sure what his numbers were this season, but I know what he brings," said Ian Kinsler, Feliz's teammate in Texas. "He's very composed, not a lot of emotion there — which, when you are performing, is great. Everybody says you are ice cold. But it's a double-edged sword because if you are not performing, they say he never shows any emotion.

"But he never changes. He loves to pitch and I am sure he is excited to be in a new organization. I am happy to have him here. I know what he's capable of."

He made a good first impression Saturday, pitching a scoreless ninth inning. His fastball was consistently hitting 96-97 mph, and he had good life on his slider and change-up.

"If he can pitch similar to that on a regular basis, he'll be a nice addition," manager Brad Ausmus said.

Feliz is in his second season after having Tommy John surgery and he was getting roughed up consistently before the Rangers designated him for assignment. He had blown three of nine save opportunities, ultimately losing that role. His ERA was 4.58 and his WHIP 1.678.

His fastball velocity, once in the high-90s, was averaging 93.8 mph, and it was getting hit. He has gone to his slider and change-up more frequently.

"Up and down," is how Feliz assessed his season thus far. "I keep working every day to be better and better. I am keeping my head up. I feel great; 100 percent in my arm. Just try to be consistent. I am working hard for that."

The signing of Feliz comes on the heels of the worst bullpen implosion of the season. The Tigers – Bruce Rondon and Soria – blew a 6-1 lead in the ninth inning Friday.

"I had a lot of teams (interested)," Feliz said about his decision to sign with the Tigers. "But the Tigers are a good team. I know a lot of guys here I played with before. This is a team that's trying to get to the World Series and trying to win.

"I am excited to be here with this team."

The Tigers optioned right-hander Jeff Ferrell back to Toledo.

Twitter @cmccosky