Rangers Minor League Notes (3/10)

SURPRISE, Ariz. - Wednesday's big league game provided an opportunity for fans to get a glimpse at three promising young pitchers in Neftali Feliz, Kasey Kiker and Alexi Ogando. Lone Star Dugout has notes from Wednesday's prospect action in big league camp.

Wednesday was another day in Major League camp for the Texas Rangers, and it was another day that the prospects got an extended look against big league-caliber competition.

• After C.J. Wilson worked the first three innings of the game, fireballing right-hander Neftali Feliz worked the fourth and fifth.

Feliz was phenomenal in his first inning of work, striking out the side in between a double off the bat of DH Mike Sweeney. Feliz fanned the first hitter he faced, LF Milton Bradley, on three fastballs, registering at 94, 94 and 98 mph, respectively. Feliz punched out Bradley and Kotchman on 98 mph fastballs, and he finished the inning by fooling Franklin Gutierrez with a 79 mph slider.

The fifth inning, however, was a different story. The inning started innocently enough, as Feliz got Adam Moore to hit a first-pitch groundout to shortstop on a 94 mph heater. The next hitter, Josh Wilson, poked a 99 mph fastball into right field for a relatively weak single.

But after that, things fell apart for Feliz. His slider lacked bite [even when successful, it acted more like a changeup, as he caught batters out in front] and he was unable to keep his changeup down in the zone or throw it for strikes. The right-hander threw just one of his eight offspeed pitches in the fifth inning for strikes.

Feliz also had problems with his fastball. Although he spotted his fastball fairly well in the fourth, he was leaving his heater over the heart of the plate in the fifth, leading to a pair of costly doubles.

Bottom line–it's a learning process for Feliz. The Neftali Feliz people have seen during camp thus far is more like the pitcher that was in Triple-A last season, and not the Majors. While Feliz has top-of-the-rotation stuff with a legitimate 80 grade fastball, he isn't unhittable. He must consistently command his stuff–starting with his fastball–in order to succeed at the Major League level.

• Left-hander Kasey Kiker pitched a solid sixth inning, retiring three of the four batters he faced. Kiker's inning went as follows:

Franklin Gutierrez: 86 FB [ball], 89 FB [called strike], 89 FB [groundout to short]
Adam Moore: 92 FB [called strike], 75 CB [ball], 81 CH [ball], 89 FB [double to left field]
Josh Wilson: 79 CH [popout to left field]
Jack Wilson: 75 CB [ball], 87 FB [popout to left field]

Kiker was excellent, throwing just one bad pitch in the 10-pitch inning–the double to Moore, which was a fastball left over the heart of the plate. Aside from his first changeup, all of his pitches were extremely well-placed, which is important if Kiker is going to sit between 89-92 mph with his fastball.

The Alabama native has a legitimate plus changeup, and the change he threw to Josh Wilson was outstanding. Wilson got well out in front of the ball and made very weak contact on the pitch. Kiker throws his changeup with the same arm angle and arm speed as his fastball, and it's a heavy pitch with plenty of velocity separation. In short, it's a very deceptive offering, and when he commands it, the hitters' swings show it.

• The most impressive pitcher of the game was 26-year-old prospect Alexi Ogando, who managed to flash even better stuff than his first time out. Ogando faced three hitters in his 13-pitch frame, getting a groundout and two strikeouts. His inning went as follows:

Ichiro Suzuki: 93 FB [ball], 96 FB [groundout to shortstop]
Chris Woodward: 96 FB [ball], 99 FB [ball], FB [called strike], 86 CH [swinging strike], 82 SL [called strike for K]
Ezequiel Carrera: 95 FB [ball], 95 FB [ball], 94 FB [called strike], FB [called strike], 86 CH [ball], 94 FB [strikeout swinging]

In his two outings, Ogando has shown the ability to touch the 98-99 mph range when necessary, but he generally sits between 93-96 mph, where he has surprisingly decent command. Ogando seems to have a good feel for pitching, particularly for a guy that is playing in big league camp despite having never pitched in the U.S. at all before this month.

The Dominican Republic native tied up Ichiro with a 96 mph fastball, forcing him to fist a rather weak groundout to shortstop. He also flashed a much better changeup than his first outing [when he was throwing it between 88-89 mph], and the pitch had some deception on Wednesday.

Although Ogando has just two outings in Major League camp, he looks like a guy that can not only stick on the 40-man roster, but also help the Rangers at some point in 2010. He is more than just a guy with a mid-90s fastball–he has some pitchability and strong secondary stuff.

• All camp long, infielder Davis Stoneburner has been rewarded for his hard work, showing up early every morning to take extra ground balls with infield specialists like Ron Washington and Spike Owen.

Stoneburner got to work out with the Major League minicamp players last week, and he played in Wednesday's contest as a JIC [just in case] player. The James Madison product picked up one of the team's two RBI's with his roped RBI single to right field. Stoneburner showed excellent extension with his arms to turn on the pitch and line it into the outfield.

• The other JIC infielder to see action on Wednesday was Travis Adair, son of Mariners pitching coach and former Rangers minor league pitching coordinator Rick Adair. Travis, a former 13th-round selection of Atlanta, worked a walk in his only plate appearance.

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