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Feliz getting close to big league return

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BALTIMORE -- Former All-Star closer Neftali Feliz continues to progress toward a return to the big leagues, possibly right after the All-Star break.

Feliz has taken over as the closer at Triple-A Round Rock and appears to be thriving in that role. He has not allowed a run in his last nine outings, having given up just two hits and a walk while striking out nine. He has six saves in that stretch.

"It seems like he has been pitching better since he has been in the ninth slot," Rangers pitching coach Mike Maddux said. "He is repeating his delivery better, executing better and pitching with his fastball. He is sprinkling in his offspeed stuff as opposed to over-exposing them. His fastball has life to it as opposed to velocity."

Feliz has been trying to get back to where he was as the Rangers closer in 2010-11 before undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2012. Since his return, his velocity has not been what it used to be and that caused him to rely too much on his offspeed pitches. He also lost the feel of his mechanics.

The Rangers optioned him to Round Rock in Spring Training so he could work on those issues. He has made improvement in all areas but has yet to show the consistency the Rangers expect before bringing him back to the big leagues. But he appears to be getting close and the Rangers are in need of a power reliever at the back end of their bullpen with Tanner Scheppers and Alexi Ogando on the disabled list with elbow inflammation. Neither pitcher is expected back anytime soon.

T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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