UPDATE: About 10 hours after I write this glowing post on Rangers' closer Joe Nathan he goes out and dogs it up in the top of the 9th against Los Mariners: 1 ip., 4 hits, 3 runs.
Turns a 3-1 lead into a 4-3 loss.
Nathan is now 0-2 with a 9.00 ERA. The Rangers have two losses, both belong to Nathan.
ARLINGTON - Neftali Feliz may never have been the same guy after Game 6. As dominant as his stuff is, trust in Neftali The Closer may have died when he gave up that soul-killing, one-strike-away-from-a-World Series-title-tying-triple to the Cardinals last fall.
Moving him out of that role may have been a necessity regardless if the Rangers had not signed former Joe Nathan in the offseason. There's a decent chance Feliz was never going to have the required confidence for that role.
It is one game, but the starting thing seems to suit Feliz well. Yes, it did come against the Mariners but Feliz was dominant in his first start on Tuesday night: 7 innings, 4 hits, 0 runs, 2 walks and 4 strikeouts.
Even though Nathan has already given up a game-winning home run in three appearances with the Rangers so far, it's very difficult not to:
1. Believe he is fully recovered from Tommy John surgery. His velocity is fine.
2. Think he instills considerably more confidence in a ninth-inning zero over Neftali. Feliz has scary stuff, but the Worry Factor was high.
Watching Nathan pitch it looks like this is just about the same guy who from 2004 to 2009 was routinely a 40-save, sub 2.00 ERA pitcher for the Twins. However bad Nathan was during the spring - a 10.29 ERA in seven innings - he looks like he has it it together.
"I feel like I threw the ball when I was healthy, before the Tommy John and everything. I felt this spring was no different," Nathan told me. "As far as the results, I never worried about that. I worry about commanding my pitches. ... I have said the end of last year really helped me out. The last couple of months went well and gave me a lot of confidence going into the offseason. Health wise, I am putting (the surgery) behind me. I don't worry about it."
As a result the Rangers' Worry Factor in the ninth feels considerably lower with Nathan.
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