HOUSTON -- His future remains as a starter, but hard-throwing right-hander Michael Feliz has opened some eyes with his performances out of the bullpen.
The 22-year-old Dominican fired three scoreless innings, striking out five batters, to pick up his first Major League win in Wednesday's 5-3, 16-inning victory over the Indians.
Feliz, who's in his third stint with the Astros this season, was rocked for six earned runs in 4 1/3 innings in long relief in the second game of the season against the Yankees, and then allowed four runs (three earned) in his second outing on April 26 against the Mariners. Since then, he's thrown eight scoreless innings in four outings with one hit allowed and 13 strikeouts with no walks.
"We watched him grow up in front of our eyes today a little bit more and a little bit more," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "It's real stuff coming out of his hand now. There's no tentative approach to him. It's 96 to 98 mph. He's rearing back and blowing it by a very contact-driven lineup, so I love seeing that."
Hinch had only two relievers left when he brought on Feliz to start the 14th inning. He retired the first seven batters he faced and didn't flinch when Carlos Santana had a one-out single in the 16th. His 36th and final pitch of his outing was a 97-mph fastball past Yan Gomes.
"In bringing him in, I joked to [bench coach] Trey [Hillman], 'What took so long? I should have brought him in earlier,'" Hinch said. "He's gaining confidence more and more. That's one of the first leverage roles that he's had in his Major League career and he stepped up admirably."
Feliz struck out the side in the ninth inning of Tuesday's loss and is clearly pitching with more confidence than he's had at any point in his career.
"I've always had confidence, but I wanted to get confidence at this level," he said through an interpreter. "Now that I have confidence at the Major League level, I'm looking forward to the next outing."
Hinch said prior to the game Feliz is working his way towards more important roles, and Wednesday's performance showed he can handle it.
"The stuff we're seeing out of his hand now is a full grade better than it was when he initially got here last season, or even at the beginning part of this season," he said. "If he continues to throw like that, a decision could be made in his favor to be used in more stressful environments, to be used in different roles, to continue his Major League career and not be this up and down guy."