It is, in the grand scheme of things, rather peculiar -- on the runs above replacement scale, bullpens have significantly less impact than that of offenses or starting rotations, but some would (convincingly) argue that they're similarly large wellsprings of discussion and controversy. Much of this effect has to do with the reality that (a) bullpens are notoriously volatile and (b) a manager's in-game strategic function largely concerns the art of effective bullpen deployment, but every once in a while something unexpected happens like, say, your purported veteran closer being supplanted by a 21-year-old pitcher with fewer than 35 major league innings to his name. Therein exists your overriding early-season storyline.
I don't know that I have a whole lot of strikingly original commentary to offer on the Neftali Feliz-for-Frank Francisco role reversal, although the diversity of opinions on this matter does make for thought-provoking commentary on its own. Insofar as Feliz is concerned, pro- and anti-bullpen factions have squandered no time in making their voices heard, with the former reasoning that this assignment does nothing to preclude his eventual starting candidacy, and the latter arguing that an entire season spent in the major league bullpen will not only stunt his development, but also make it easier for Texas to not furnish him with a legitimate rotation audition down the road.
Neither of these viewpoints is airtight, but the latter is particularly suspect: to posit that this all materially reduces Feliz's chances of eventually getting a crack at the rotation means ignoring that C.J. Wilson -- who recorded 38 saves between 2008-2009 -- maneuvered his way into a rotation spot this spring, as well as disregarding the breaking-in-as-a-reliever paradigm followed with Johan Santana, Pedro Martinez, Carlos Zambrano and others of their successful ilk. I'm also not convinced that secondary pitch development and major league relief work are mutually exclusive activities with zero overlap, but this is verging on the speculatory realm.
All that said, there are a few ancillary points worth mentioning. Dave Cameron's assessment of the situation is right on the money -- that is, that the Rangers seem to be properly balancing the present/future and maximizing their current chances of winning -- and was given a reinforcing, albeit potentially unnerving shot of credence by Jason Parks' and Jason Cole's recent agreement that Feliz profiles as a future reliever. I doubt the average Rangers fan wants to hear that.
Another consideration is deployment; Feliz pitching in back-to-back games doesn't worry me, but one of Ron Washington's most widely panned bullpen decisions last season entailed pitching Francisco in back-to-back-to-back games, and while I can't imagine upper management would permit him to do the same with Feliz, it's something worth remembering.
That criticism of Washington aside, he deserves a little credit for his handling of a game-critical situation in Monday afternoon's series opener. One might cast some doubt upon the manager's state of mental well-being for pitching Francisco in a high-leverage, game-tied situation immediately after being displaced as closer, but he's too important to unnecessarily relegate to a low-leverage role, and while Francisco did make things more interesting than they needed to be (yielding a scorched liner to shortstop and a deep fly ball to right field), he did notch his scoreless appearance. Not every manager would have put himself in the proverbial line of fire for the sake of his player like that.