LAKELAND, Fla. -- You wonder sometimes if Durbin Feltman’s rise through the Red Sox’s farm system will rival the speed of his fastball.
The highly touted righty reliever from TCU experienced his first day of Major League life on Thursday, when the Red Sox had him join the traveling squad as an extra against the Tigers.
And in the bottom of the ninth, Feltman emerged and struck out two of the three batters he faced. Though he issued a walk to Gordon Beckham, he erased the runner by starting a pickoff for the third out to preserve the 4-4 tie.
“That was awesome,” Feltman said. “Coming in in the ninth inning, that’s always cool, especially on the big league side. That was quite the experience. Got out there, kind of was a little spotty, but it was fun to just see how my stuff plays and get used to the smaller strike zone, stuff like that. It was a great experience.”
Taken in the third round by the Red Sox last year as the 100th overall pick in the Draft, Feltman could get his first real callup to Boston as early as this season if things go well enough.
Not that the 21-year-old would ever make such a bold prediction. How close is Feltman, who is ranked 12th among Red Sox prospects by MLB Pipeline?
“I don’t know,” Feltman said. “I feel good. I feel confident in my stuff. We’ll just see how it plays.”
When Boston’s setup crew displayed inconsistency down the stretch last season, there were even some rumblings that Feltman would get called up just weeks after being drafted. But it never came to fruition.
“Yeah, I heard it a little bit,” said Feltman. “Of course, my friends sent me stuff. Just tried to block it all out and do what I could where I was at. That’s basically been my motto for pro ball and even in college, be where your feet are. Be in the present moment and do what you can there.”
Calling up a prospect so soon can be a dicey proposition. For every Francisco Rodriguez, there is a Craig Hansen, the lanky righty the Red Sox called up in 2005 less than three months after he was drafted from St. John’s.
Red Sox manager Alex Cora was a player for Boston that season and remembers the experiment not working out at all.
“It didn’t turn out the way the organization thought it was going to be,” Cora said. “There’s a lot of stories like that. There’s Francisco Rodriguez, who was the other way around. It’s one of those that, organizations, they make decisions, not only on stuff and talent but makeup and what they can handle, how are they going to bounce back from bad outings. All that stuff comes into play when you make decisions like that.”
Cora was able to get his first look at Feltman on Monday, when he was pitching at the Minor League complex on the same day ace Chris Sale was getting his work in.
“It caught my eye,” Cora said. “It was 95, 96, and the breaking ball, I actually had to go to the dugout to see feedback and it’s a good one. It’s a good slider. Quick, out of the zone. We keep talking about vertical attack and he understands that part and his stuff plays into it.”
The vertical attack is exactly what Feltman said was his biggest adjustment coming out of college.
“In college, it was always, ‘Hey, pound the bottom of the zone.’ And that’s been the big adjustment, 'Hey, now you have to pound the top of the zone,’ so you have to flip flop it,” said Feltman.
Why has Feltman become so highly regarded in such a short amount of time?
“I don’t want to be the recruiting coordinator for TCU but that’s a pretty good school and they do it right,” Cora said. “The way he uses his pitches, the pitch mix, where he goes with them, it’s probably advanced in a sense. That’s why people get so excited about his stuff.”
Thursday was a nice first step. Perhaps Feltman will get another chance or two before Spring Training ends.
“First big league outing, he goes out there, he fell behind three hitters, but you can see the stuff,” Cora said. “That last one, it was a good play. Game on the line, he didn’t panic, stepped off, got the out, and we got the tie.”