The hits just keep coming. According to FOXSportsSouthwest.com's Anthony Andro, Neftali Feliz will undergo Tommy John elbow ligament replacement surgery to repair a torn UCL in his right elbow, and, obviously, is done for the remainder of the 2012 season, as well as what you would presume to be a substantial chunk of the 2013 season.
The Rangers have already indicated that they believe Feliz is a "perfect candidate for full recovery," and with the high success rate of Tommy John surgery and the ever-shortening length of the required rehab period, the hope on the part of the organization is probably that Feliz can make it back to the major league level within 11-12 months, and hopefully return to the bullpen as a contributing member during the second half of the 2013 season; if not, he'll be back at the outset of the 2014 season. This is terrible news, obviously, but it was news that I feel like we saw coming from a mile away, and, consequently, I don't feel nearly as despondent over this announcement as I probably would if it had just totally blindsided me out of nowhere.
You also figure that Feliz being sidelined for an extended period of time -- and the Rangers' knowledge of the seriousness of his injury prior to today's deadline mayhem --- provided extra motivation for the Rangers to pull the trigger on the Dempster trade, as the starting pitching depth has been whittled down pretty substantially by the respective losses of Colby Lewis and Feliz. After Yu Darvish, Matt Harrison, Derek Holland, Roy Oswalt, and Scott Feldman, the Rangers' only two viable rotation options were Alexi Ogando and Martin Perez, with little in the way of protective cushion in the event that things continued to go horribly awry for the rotation.
And, speaking of Oswalt, we also have word this afternoon that the Rangers have moved him to the bullpen, which now leaves you with a starting rotation of Darvish, Harrison, Holland, Feldman, and Dempster, and Oswalt functioning as the swing man. Oswalt, to the best of my recollection, had made noise before committing to Texas about having no interest in pitching out of anyone's bullpen, and had made it pretty clear that he considered himself a starting pitcher. To that end, we have this cryptic little development in the Rangers' clubhouse in the wake of the Oswalt/Feliz news:
Oswalt was called away from talking to media by Mike Maddux. When he returned, he got on telelphone and then left clubhouse for a while.— Evan Grant (@Evan_P_Grant) July 31, 2012
These are strange, strange times, and while I do have a hard time believing that Oswalt would actually go so far as to stir up a major ruckus about his demotion to the bullpen in light of his current 6.00-plus ERA, you do still wonder if this move is going to sit so poorly with him that he will demand that his agent negotiate his release from the organization. [Update: Apparently not, or at least not right now, as Ron Washington told the press in the clubhouse that Oswalt "took the news [of his demotion] like a pro."]
It is, in any event, a fascinating development in its own right, as Oswalt had rattled off a couple of good starts before his latest back issue, brief layoff, and disastrous start last night (which he attributed to his poor arm slot coming off extended rest), and you would be inclined to think that his leash with the organization would be at least a little bit longer in light of the fact that the Rangers are paying him no less than $5 million guaranteed this season, as well as the fact that Nolan Ryan was apparently an instrumental force in him signing with the Rangers. Instead, the Rangers have relegated Oswalt to Feldman's old role in spite of the previous understanding that it was a rotation-or-bust arrangement, and that strikes me as an unexpected, albeit pleasantly surprising, about-face.
This is also fascinating in that Feldman has executed a complete 180-degree turnaround in his fortunes -- less than two months ago, there were various and sundry cries about how he needed to be released (or sold dirt cheap) because he was pitching so terribly, and then matters only becamse worse when he made the ill-advised decision to air his grievances about his situation to the media. Now, though, Feldman is riding a sizable wave of July success, and is coming off strong back-to-back starts against the Red Sox and White Sox ... and surprising as it is to admit this after his earlier struggles, he did earn the right to keep his rotation spot on the strength of his performance. Things do change all the time, and he isn't guaranteed to keep that spot into perpetuity ... but he earned it. He deserves it. Merit triumphed over veteran status today. I hope we can keep that trend rolling.