Before Durbin Feltman can secure a late-inning role in the Boston Red Sox’s bullpen, he must earn the trust of the team’s manager. To this point, the star prospect seems to be doing a good job of that.
But that doesn’t mean Alex Cora is champing at the bit to get the TCU product on Boston’s major league roster.
Feltman, a third-round pick in the 2018 MLB Amateur Draft who possesses a mid-90s fastball and a sharp breaking ball, is seen as a potential closer. In fact, many believed the Horned Frog’s all-time saves leader had a chance to debut with Boston last season, just a couple of months after getting drafted. That fantasy never became a reality, though. Instead, Feltman, 21, appeared in 22 games across various levels of Single-A ball, compiling a 1.93 ERA to go along with 36 strikeouts and six walks.
Feltman now is participating in his first spring training, and he’s making a strong impression, striking out four batters across 1 2/3 innings. Again, there’s a belief Feltman might be on a fast track to the majors as someone who could play a key role in what many believe is an undermanned Red Sox bullpen.
But Cora wants to be extra cautious with the prized prospect, and it’s easy to understand why. Red Sox fans likely remember former first-round pick Craig Hansen, who reached the majors shortly after being drafted in 2005 and failed miserably — an ugly beginning to what became a forgettable career.
“I saw (Feltman) Monday. The stuff was there. You can see it,” Cora told reporters last week after Feltman’s spring debut, per WEEI.com’s Rob Bradford. “Everybody knows about him. I still remember people thought he was going to be the savior last year when he got drafted. It?s not that easy. It?s not that easy. We went through it in ?05 (with Craig Hansen) and he was kind of like the guy and it didn?t turn out to be that.
“You?ve got to be very careful. This is still the big leagues. I don?t know if I have told you guys, my brother, he puts it in a very particular way. It?s A-ball, Double-A, Triple-A, it?s not 4-A, it?s MLB. There?s a difference. There?s a big jump from the A?s to MLB. There?s a period of adjustment.”
Feltman likely will begin the season in Double-A Portland. Whether he gets promoted before or after September call-ups — or at any point in the 2019 season, for that matter — will be determined both by his performance and the Red Sox’s needs at a given time. He also might have to battle with fellow prospect Darwinzon Hernandez for first dibs at a spot on the roster.
All that said, we might be just a few months away from seeing Feltman exiting the Fenway Park bullpen with the game on the line.