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Phillies activate Neftalí Féliz as veteran reliever rejoins MLB roster for first time since 2017

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The Phillies made some roster moves in front of their Friday doubleheader against the Mets and one catches the eye. They activated right-handed reliever Neftalí Féliz. Does that name ring a bell? If it doesn’t, you’re forgiven. Féliz hasn’t pitched in the majors since 2017. Even fans who remember him well might’ve believed he was retired. 

The 33-year-old Féliz dealt with arm issues toward the end of 2016, had a bad 2017 and just didn’t rebound enough to make it all the way back to the big leagues until now.

Féliz was an All-Star and won AL Rookie of the Year in 2010 as the Rangers’ closer. He served in that role for them on back-to-back pennant winners, pitching very well in the playoffs except for a certain very famous blown save

He needed to have Tommy John surgery in 2012 and that took out pretty much all of 2012-13, but he came back with a 1.99 ERA in 31 2/3 innings in 2014. The following season he was bad enough that the Rangers released him. He didn’t fare any better with the Tigers. In 2016, he was back to being effective in the early part of the season with the Pirates until said arm issues derailed him. 

In 2017, Féliz had a rough stint with the Brewers and a mediocre one with the Royals. And that was it in the bigs until Friday. In 2019-20, he only pitched in the Dominican Winter League.

At Triple-A Lehigh Valley this season, Féliz posted a 1.26 ERA, 0.98 WHIP and 23 strikeouts to six walks over 14 1/3 frames.

The Phillies continue to have bullpen issues, though their 3.76 June ERA is an improvement from the first two months of the season. Still, overall they’ve lost six of their last eight. It’s possible a rejuvenated Féliz injects some life into the bullpen. If so, that’s a pretty fun comeback story.

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