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October 07, 2008

Surprise on Tuesday

Four Rangers pitchers, including Neftali Feliz, allowed only an unearned run, and Justin Smoak hit a tie-breaking two-run homer in the eighth as a Rangers Instructional League club beat one from the Mariners 3-1. Feliz, making his first Instructional League appearance, followed Omar Poveda's three scoreless innings with two perfect frames. He just outclassed the hitters, which he should be expected to do. Kasey Kiker came on in the eighth -- after the Mariners tied it in the seventh on a dropped flyball by Engel Beltre -- and pitched two scoreless innings to earn the win.

Afterward, Feliz said he is working on two things during his stay here: command of his fastball -- at the behest of Nolan Ryan -- and command his English, which is about as good as my Spanish. But he also said that he wants to make the Rangers' roster in 2009 out of spring training and is ready to go as soon as he gets the opportunity.

He was the player everyone really wanted to see. As soon as he went to the mound, many in the crowd of scouts, executives and other minor leaguers crowded around the bleachers behind home plate in the hopes of getting a glimpse at the radar gun. The fastest pitch I saw was a 96 mph fastball that froze some overmatched Mariners hitter for a called strike three.

Ryan, by the way, left town today to tend to business in Texas. Manager Ron Washington was on-site and will be again today. Ditto for general manager Jon Daniels, who will fly home Thursday.

-- Jeff Wilson

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