OAKLAND — To the Rangers, the Mark Teixeira trade is the gift that keeps on giving. They unwrapped another of their presents on Monday night, while most of the country was sleeping.
All Neftali Feliz did was strike out the first four batters he faced in the majors, the first pitcher to do that since 1962, on his way to two perfect innings.
Before the A’s and Rangers played the second game of the series on Tuesday night, they were still shaking their heads in the Oakland clubhouse about the 21-year-old with the 100 mph fastball.
“He had electric stuff,” A’s outfielder Scott Hairston told FanHouse. “A guy who has a fastball like that is special. I think he’s going to be around for a while.”
Feliz was throwing to catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, with shortstop Elvis Andrus standing behind him. All three players were acquired in the July 2007 trade that sent Teixeira to the Braves. A fourth, starter Matt Harrison, has contributed 13 victories in two seasons as a Rangers starter. He’s on the DL with a sore left shoulder.
“It’s one of the best [trades] I’ve been a part of simply because I’ve never seen getting that many guys and they all come to the big leagues,” Rangers manager Ron Washington said. “The scouting staff did a great job going to the Atlanta system and picking the guys we wanted.”
(The fifth player from the deal, Beau Jones, is having a mediocre season as a reliever in Double-A.)
Of the entire group, right now Feliz is the one grabbing the most attention. He began the season rated as the Rangers’ No. 1 prospect. He started for the World team in the Futures Game.
The Rangers made him a reliever in the middle of the season because they needed help in the bullpen in the big leagues. The Rangers are expected to have him work as a starter next season and see how that goes. When asked what Feliz can be in the long-term, Washington said: “I don’t know yet, but I tell you what, I like what he brings for an inning or two.”
What he brought on Monday night was a lot of fastballs.
“That’s all I saw,” said A’s outfielder Jack Cust, who whiffed on four pitches.
Based on that small sample size, Cust said Feliz is probably not as unhittable as he looked in his debut.
“I saw it pretty good,” he said. “It didn’t feel like it was 100. He struck me out, but I strike out a lot.”
Cust said it seemed like Feliz’s fastball would be hittable if it were down, but the high ones are tough.
“It looks like a good pitch to hit, but when it’s 100 mph, it’s tough to catch up to,” Cust said.
Saltalamacchia said Feliz has more in the tank than just a fastball. He said he’s also got a curveball and a changeup, and he mixed in a few effective ones on Monday.
“Anytime you throw 100, everything else becomes pretty good too,” he said. “He threw strikes, too. That’s the big thing … for him to come in last night and do what he did, he’s going to be a big part of our future.”
Washington said Feliz was sent to the minors after spring training with instructions to improve his secondary pitches and throw more strikes with his fastball.
“If his delivery can be that easy and his ball can find the strike zone like it did last night,” Washington said, “that’s very special.”