Big outings on tap for Feliz, Wilson

Big outings on tap for Feliz, Wilson

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Neftali Feliz pitches against the Cubs on Tuesday in Mesa, followed by C.J. Wilson. Both are expected to pitch four innings.

These could be big outings for both, and they openly admit that.

"It is very important," Feliz said. "I have to work on what I've been working on and pound the strike zone with all my pitches."

"Yeah, absolutely it's important," Wilson said. "Every day is obviously a day closer to the season starting and putting myself in a position to give 100 percent effort when the season starts. There is also a time-sensitive component to the decision they'll be making on my role."

The Rangers have a number of decisions facing them in regards to their pitching staff, and Wilson and Feliz are prominent among the discussions. There is a spot in the rotation to be won and slots in the bullpen to be filled.

Both Wilson and Feliz want to be in the rotation. They make that clear. Yet it's highly doubtful both will get that chance, although that decision won't be made after Tuesday's game. There is still 2 1/2 weeks of Spring Training.

But evaluations will be made by others and future plans will be devised at least partly on how the two perform. Quality innings in Cactus League games become inestimable in their value. The competition for jobs can't last forever.

As manager Ron Washington said regarding decisions: "We're going to start making them pretty soon."

Wilson has had a better spring than Feliz, at least to this point, allowing three runs over five innings but giving up just three hits and a walk and striking out three. His pitch counts have been low, and his innings have been crisp. The Rangers are seeing what they want to see to this point.

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"I'm pretty happy in terms of progress," Wilson said. "I feel the work I put in during the offseason is translating, and I'm getting feedback from the people I am communicating with.

"I feel I'm in really good shape, and fitness is a huge deal for a starting pitcher. My focus has been good in my ability to get contact early in the count and change the knock on me as far as pitches per inning."

Feliz has allowed six runs on six hits and two walks in four innings. His velocity has been there, but his command has been erratic, especially with his breaking ball. He admitted it has not been a good spring to this point.

"Considering the type of pitcher I am, I haven't pitched very well," Feliz said. "I know there is a lot of talent here and a lot of competition. But I still have to do my job. My last outing, I was overconfident and trying to be very fine on my pitches. I have to start doing my job and not worrying about it."

In the battle for the fifth starter spot, Wilson and Feliz are in a crowded field. Matt Harrison, the early leader, has not allowed a run over five innings. Right-hander Brandon McCarthy and left-hander Derek Holland each pitched three scoreless innings in their last starts.

Both Wilson and Feliz were in the Rangers' bullpen at the end of last season. If Wilson doesn't make the rotation, that's where he'll be this season. There are no such guarantees for Feliz.

Feliz could make the rotation or end up in the bullpen, but he could also find himself in Triple-A Oklahoma City as well.

"I'd just like to see [Feliz] pick up his secondary stuff," Washington said. "That will be important for him. He needs to work on getting them over with consistency. We all know about his fastball, and he's got a pretty good changeup. A couple of days ago, he locked somebody up with his breaking ball. It's there. We just need to see consistency."

Tuesday afternoon would be a good day to show just that.

T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.