Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
When it comes to converting relievers, no team does it like the Texas Rangers.
In the past two seasons, C.J. Wilson, Derek Holland and Matt Harrison each successfully made the jump to the rotation after spending the previous year as a reliever. This season, the Rangers will attempt to strike gold again with former closer Neftali Feliz.
But is Feliz the converted reliever you'll want to own this season? Daniel Bard of the Red Sox and Chris Sale of the White Sox are also going to be starting games this season. Will either of them be more valuable than Feliz?
Based on past history and spring performance, Bard may be the player you want to stay away from entirely.
Bard has never had promising results as a starter. Not in Single-A and definitely not this spring. Really, it's been a downright massacre for Bard anytime he'd been on the hill to start the game, so it's a real head scratcher as to why he would request to start before the 2012 season.
In 2007, Bard started 22 games split between low and high Single-A ball. He tossed 75 innings, gave up 76 hits and five homers. His ERA was 7.08 and his strikeout-to-walk ratio was a pitiful 0.60 (47 strikeouts and 78 walks).
In spring training this season, Bard started five games and threw 24 2/3 innings, surrendering 21 hits and two homers. Worst of all, he had a 1.1 k/bb ratio (18 strikeouts and 16 walks), so his wildness has not subsided.
Andrew Bailey is also out until July, and if Alfredo Aceves and Mark Melancon struggle with the closing duties, there will be pressure on Boston to switch Bard to that role.
Sale, meanwhile, only threw 10 1/3 innings in his brief minor league career, all as a reliever, before getting the call up to the White Sox in 2010, where he's thrown 94 1/3 innings out of the bullpen.
On first glance, Sale has had mixed results this spring, recording a 4.18 ERA in six starts. However, a closer look reveals that he has a 28-to-4 strikeout- to-walk ratio, so he's been quite sharp with his control.
That brings us back to Feliz.
The last time we saw the Ranger hurler, he was blowing a save in Game 6 of the World Series after having St. Louis down to its final strike.
High stress blown saves in the World Series have had residual effects for some (Mark Wohlers) while not affecting others in the slightest (Mariano Rivera).
However, there isn't really a way to measure how that failure will affect Feliz this season, since he is changing roles.
The only way to really measure Feliz' potential is to look at his past. What's good is that the righty has had significantly more starting experience and success than the other two combined.
In 2008, Feliz split the season between Single-A and Double-A, starting 27 games and throwing 127 1/3 innings while maintaining a 2.69 ERA. He gave up just 89 hits while striking out 153. He also kept the ball in the park and limited his free passes, giving up just three homers and walking 51.
In spring training, Feliz has suffered from a sore shoulder, throwing only 13 innings. He gave up three homers and walked five while striking out 11. Feliz is still on track to start on April 10 after throwing 102 pitches in a simulated game on Thursday.
Even though all three of these pitchers have potential for success in their new roles, if I had to choose one, I'd still go with Feliz.
Bard has been a mess on the mound throughout his starting career and outside of this spring, Sale hasn't been on the bump to start a game since his days at Florida Gulf Coast University.
Meanwhile, Texas pitching coach Mike Maddux has a proven track record handling converted relievers. The Rangers know how to handle these players; they know what type of limitations there will be and what type of physical care is needed over the course of the season. The importance of that experience cannot be overstated.
So stick with Feliz, even though he may struggle in April as he recovers fully from his stiff shoulder.
If he's anything like Wilson, Holland and Harrison, you'll have yourself a 13-16 win, potential fantasy ace at your service.
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