Could Durbin Feltman be the Red Sox' secret weapon?

Rob Bradford
March 12, 2019 - 8:05 am

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Durbin Feltman is used to be being in the crosshairs.

Ever since his parents took the Houston native to Super Bowl XXXVIII Feltman has claimed the Patriots as his team, not a popular partnership considering his area code. So when Feltman sat down to watch the latest Pats' Super Bowl at his old college house in Fort Worth, Texas all eyes were on the former TCU star.

"Everybody was rooting against them. I was decked out with my (Tom) Brady jersey," Feltman told WEEI.com. "I’m like, ‘Don’t worry, they got it.’ That was awesome to see. They have No. 6 and hopefully, they get No. 7. They tied the record and now they have to beat the record."

Now Feltman is back to wearing another jersey: His No. 70 Red Sox pullover. All eyes are still on him.

Right now the 21-year-old right-handed relief pitcher is just another of the minor-leaguers who spend their March days on the backfields of Fenway South. A year ago he was starting a season with the Horned Frogs that would lead the Red Sox to taking him with a third-round pick in last June's draft. But this isn't just another high-numbered hopeful. Feltman might be scratching exactly where the Red Sox' big league team is itching.

"Liked it," said one American League scout after watching Feltman perform in a minor-league game Monday. "He was 94 (mph) with plus downer curveball. Good aggressiveness. Arm action not the same, more effort, but the fastball and curveball shape remind me of a young (Mark) Melancon."

We still haven't seen Feltman in a Grapefruit League game, although Red Sox manager Alex Cora initially pinpointed this past weekend as the time for the reliever's debut. And he still hasn't pitched above Single-A Salem, where the righty finished off his first pro season with 11 appearances. But that doesn't mean this guy shouldn't be on the radar and in the conversation.

The Red Sox dug in after drafting Feltman last year, not entertaining the idea of promoting the pitcher to the bigs despite the thought by many that he might be ready. There was, however, a reason his name was brought up as part of the relief-pitching solution.

He's got big league stuff and excels at an important position, relief pitcher. Not starter. Just reliever. This is skill-set that should be of interest to this Red Sox team.

"Just kind of focus where your feet are. When I was in Lowell I was focused on Lowell, doing the best I could there. Then I just treated it the same at each stage on the way up," explained Feltman, who played at Lowell, Greenville and Salem in 2018. "They would just tell me to focus where your feet are, which was really good for me, especially because you might start focusing on the future too much.

"My mindset was I’m not going to make it the bigs unless I do well here and when I moved up it was that I’m not going to make it there unless I do well here. I just wanted to do the best I could at that spot and if you do that it will take care of itself and work out."

Feltman did his part.

He struck out a combined 36 batters in 23 1/3 innings, walking just five while holding opponents to a .207 batting average. And along the way, Feltman also learned how different professional baseball could be. The pitcher discovered through the Sox' analytics department his fastball actually had some natural cut to it, a reality he didn't fully understand before getting in front of the Red Sox' machines. And then there was how these hitters hit.

"It’s a lot different in pro ball than it is in college," he said. "In college it’s pound the bottom of the zone, pound the bottom of the zone. Throwing up in the zone was bad. I had to re-gear myself and think I have to do the exact opposite. I have to throw all at the top of the zone and work my breaking ball off of that. That was a big difference for me because it was always preached to do not throw at the top of the zone. Keep the ball down.

"After Lowell, once I got to Greenville, I started noticing if you went up in the zone there was a lot of swings and misses. I feel like the way baseball is trending right now all the relievers are throwing up in the zone anyway. Throw up in the zone and breaking balls off of that."

There are other aspiring major leaguers who might also fit the bill for the Red Sox bullpen. Darwinzon Hernandez. Travis Lakins. There might be some options here. But don't be surprised if the guy most Red Sox fans still haven't witnessed, Feltman, is part of the group.

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