JULY 3: Feliz has cleared waivers and elected free agency, the Phils announced.
JULY 1: The Phillies announced that they’ve designated right-hander Neftali Feliz for assignment and reinstated righty Brandon Kintzler from the injured list. It marks an abrupt end to Feliz’s tenure with the Phils after a four-year absence from the Majors.
Feliz looked razor-sharp in Triple-A this season, posting a 1.26 ERA and a 23-to-6 K/BB ratio in just 14 2/3 innings of work, but the bullpen-desperate Phils gave him a quick hook after his first two outings produced dismal results. Feliz faced just nine batters between his two outings, allowing six of them to reach on four hits (one homer), a walk and a hit batsmen.
Manager Joe Girardi called on Feliz with a man abord to protect a two-run lead in his Phillies debut, but he responded with a walk, a strikeout, a hit batter and a go-ahead grand slam off the bat of Nick Castellanos. Feliz again came in with a pair on and a one-run lead in his second appearance, but he surrendered a game-tying single and go-ahead double before picking up a strikeout to escape the jam.
It’s up for debate whether Feliz should’ve been immediately dropped into high-leverage spots after such a long absence from the spotlight of a Major League mound, but it’s certainly understandable that Girardi would want to try a different approach after such pronounced struggles from the Philadelphia relief corps of late. Turning to Feliz on a pair of occasions didn’t pan out, but that’s been largely true of the remainder of the bullpen as well.
The Phillies will now have a week to trade Feliz, attempt to pass him through outright waivers or release him. There’s a chance, based on his pedigree and strong output with Triple-A Lehigh Valley, that another club might take a look. Feliz, after all, was the 2010 American Rookie of the Year and spent a few seasons as one of the game’s premier relievers before injuries derailed his career. Even if he goes unclaimed, he has the service time to reject an outright assignment and could land with another club as a free agent on a new minor league deal.
Feliz struggled mightily in his short time with Philadelphia, but the same has been true of Kintzler thus far in his first year with the Phils as well. The former Twins and Marlins closer has pitched 18 innings but been clobbered for 17 runs on a stunning 31 hits (five homers) and four walks. Kintzler’s 59.4 percent grounder rate is excellent, as is typical for him, but he’s been plagued by a .406 average on balls in play and been uncharacteristically susceptible to the long ball so far. In the offseason, the Phillies signed him to a minor league deal that came with a $3MM base salary, which he locked in upon winning a roster spot in Spring Training.