Feliz impresses Maddux during bullpen session
Closer 'looked sharp,' according to Rangers pitching coach
SURPRISE, Ariz. -- The Rangers' top relievers had their first official bullpen sessions on Sunday during the club's second workout for pitchers and catchers.
Closer Neftali Feliz, who worked this offseason with a personal trainer, was among those who impressed pitching coach Mike Maddux.
"Neftali looked sharp," Maddux said. "I see a guy recommitted to why he was good and what he has to do to be good. He looks really good. His attitude is to take nothing for granted. You saw that sometimes in the past, but I don't see any signs of that this year."
Tanner Scheppers also looked "very good," according to Maddux, and the Rangers are confident he is over the right elbow problems that forced him to miss much of last season. The Rangers are hoping that he can lock down the eighth inning again as he did in 2013.
Shawn Tolleson didn't have any physical problems last season and pitched in 64 games, going 3-1 with a 2.76 ERA. But he missed most of 2013 with the Dodgers because of back surgery, and Maddux believes he'll be even better this season as he gets further away from that.
"Last year was kind of a rehab year," Maddux said. "It was a rehab year and it was pretty good."
Tolleson, who should be in the Rangers' bullpen in some capacity, said he can tell a difference being another year removed from back surgery. He is hoping that translates into a more prominent role in the bullpen. He is not necessarily concerned with what inning he pitches, he just wants to earn the Rangers' trust to pitch in big situations.
"I'd like the opportunity to come into games and get big hitters out," Tolleson said. "I don't care if it is middle relief or late relief, I just want the team to be able to depend on me to get big outs in big situations. Those are fun situations to be in."
Right-hander Kyuji Fujikawa, who signed as a free agent this offseason, is another reliever the Rangers hope to use in big situations. He was once the best closer in Japan before signing with the Cubs and needing Tommy John surgery in 2013. He came back last season and posted a 4.85 ERA in 15 games at the end of the year. Maddux saw him throw for the first time on Sunday.
"The ball was coming out pretty good," Maddux said. "Pretty clean … he repeated his delivery well. He showed no favoritism of any injury. He let it go."
Asked if he was back to where he was as a premier closer in Japan, Fujikawa said, "Very close. Last year was not close. This year it's getting close."
Maddux also liked what he saw from Juan Carlos Oviedo. He had 92 saves with the Marlins in 2009-11 before missing two years following Tommy John surgery. He had a 3.69 ERA in 32 games for the Rays last season and is in camp on a Minor League contract.
"For the first time out, he looked really good," Maddux said.