Could Vizcaino be another Neftali Feliz?

Is Arodys Vizcaino setting himself up to be Atlanta's future closer?

Arodys Vizcaino got his second save of the season, and his career Friday night. It might be a sign of things to come for a pitcher that has always had the stuff to do something special in the big leagues.

Since returning from his PED suspension, Vizcaino has pitched in 15 games. He's allowed just one earned run on nine hits in 13.2 innings, with six walks and 12 strikeouts.

Vizcaino was rushed to the big leagues with Atlanta in 2011 as a 20-year-old. Braves minor league coaches pleaded with former GM Frank Wren to not rush Vizcaino, but Wren promoted the young pitcher anyway. He was clearly not ready, and then Vizcaino got hurt and had to miss significant time after having Tommy John surgery.

The Braves got him back last offseason from the Cubs for second baseman Tommy LaStella. Oh, what a great trade that looks like right now. With Craig Kimbrel in San Diego and Jason Grilli hurt, Vizcaino is getting a great opportunity to show if he is the new long-term option at closer for this club.

Vizcaino reminds me of Neftali Feliz, a fellow Dominican right-hander who was a Braves prospect before he was traded in the dreaded Mark Teixiera deal in July, 2007. Feliz also threw hard, and the Rangers made him a closer when he was only 22 years old. Feliz was so good he made the All-Star team in 2010, the season he had 40 saves for Texas.

Like Vizcaino, Feliz had elbow issues and his career got off track. He's now struggling to come back with the Tigers after the Rangers let him go earlier this season.

But if Vizcaino can stay healthy, and he certainly looks like he is with a fastball again reaching into the upper-90s, the Braves may have a Feliz-like closer in the making. And with Grilli a question mark because of his Achilles' heel injury, it will be one less thing the Braves will need to get this offseason if Vizcaino can show for the rest of the season he can be the closer.

The Braves hope Grilli is back next spring. He's under contract, and knowing Grilli it would be unwise to count him out. But Grilli might return to the role the Braves originally signed him for if Vizcaino can show he is ready for the closer's job.

The bullpen could be very solid next year. It will include a number of pitchers that will be coming back from injuries - Chris Withrow, Paco Rodriguez, Daniel Winkler, Shae Simmons. But if Vizcaino is ready to be the closer, all things can likely fall into place after that.

So as the Braves struggle to stay alive here in the last two months, Vizcaino is one major player to keep an eye on. His success could be a huge piece of the potential 2016 puzzle.




Listen to "The Bill Shanks Show" from 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WPLA Fox Sports 1670 AM in Macon and online at http://www.foxsports1670.com/. Follow Bill at twitter.com/BillShanks and e-mail him at thebillshanksshow@yahoo.com.


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