The Rangers have optioned right-handed reliever and former closer Neftali Feliz to the team's Triple-A affiliate, according to Drew Davidson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Feliz competed with Joakim Soria to emerge as the team's closer after Joe Nathan left via free agency during the offseason.
Feliz, 25, hoped to reclaim his former role in the ninth inning this winter, but he won't get a chance to do so right out of the gate.
After a brief conversion to the rotation, Feliz torn his ulnar collateral ligament and underwent Tommy John surgery. His velocity has yet to return to what it once was, though he did hit 97 mph this winter. His fastball sat regularly at 90 to 93 mph.
General manager Jon Daniels explained his team's decision to demote Feliz.
"We optioned Neftali with the goal of working with him to get back to where we all know he can be. He’s healthy and his work ethic has been solid, but he needs some work and the best place to get him that is in Round Rock right now. I expect he’ll be back as soon as he’s ready to help us."
The Rangers are likely to rely on Soria, Alexi Ogando, and Jason Frasor as their regular righties out of the bullpen.