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News » Sam Donnellon: Feliz is feeling no pain and it shows in his stats

Sam Donnellon: Feliz is feeling no pain and it shows in his stats

Sam Donnellon: Feliz is feeling no pain and it shows in his stats
AMID ALL the leftfield worship of the newest Phillies face and our civic anxiety over starting pitching, Pedro Feliz has quietly re-established his reputation.

Among regulars, only Chase Utley and Raul Ibanez have hit better than his .303 average this spring. His 19 runs batted in, from the seven-hole, is also within four of the team lead. But the stat that really jumps out is what he has done late in games, that same time period that once drew groans and boos as he approached the plate.

Feliz has 15 hits and eight runs batted in from the seventh inning on this season. Over his last 19 at-bats with runners in scoring position, he has delivered 10 hits. Overall, he's 12-for-27 (.444) with runners in scoring position, accounting for 17 of his 19 RBI.

"I think he feels more in, like he's on the team," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel was saying before last night's 5-3 victory over the Dodgers. "Also, I think when he got hurt he didn't tell us last year. He tried to play. And I think that definitely had something to do with it.

"How much, I don't know."

Manuel doesn't know because Feliz still won't tell him. The back injury, the one that placed him on the disabled list for nearly a month, the one that needed long sessions in the training room before games late in the season, is something Feliz still squirms about.

Except to say this:

"I tried to go in there every day and give 110 percent. It's not going to be happy days every day."

Or any day late last summer and into the fall. Signed to a 2-year deal before last season, Feliz was expected to provide the kind of back-end pop he had in three previous seasons in San Francisco. After a slow first month, he hit .311 in May. His back began acting up in mid-June, and Feliz played for more than a month under cloudy skies, sometimes under a rain of boos, too.

That kind of stormy relationship was new to the Dominican native. Once a utility man who earned his way into a starting spot with the Giants, Feliz was a fan favorite in San Francisco - his humility a welcome contrast to the arrogance of Barry Bonds, his glove providing highlights almost nightly.

That last part didn't change. Feliz saved and won games for the Phillies with his glove last year, but the paltry power and lowly average sabotaged the kind of warm and fuzzy bond Raul Ibanez has forged here - at least until October.

Somehow Feliz batted .333 in the World Series and drove in the winning run in the clinching Game 5.

"My biggest hit in Baseball," said Feliz, smiling.

Manuel has noticed that smile more this season. He also said Feliz talks more this year, jokes with teammates more, has a sense of ownership he did not have last season, at least until the end.

"I think the way he played in the postseason and the fact that he got the big hit at the end, I think that had a lot to do with it," the manager said. "I think when he came to Philadelphia he had to prove to himself, and he wanted to prove to his teammates, that he belonged on the team. He wanted to be liked. He's that kind of a guy. And I think all of those things have fallen in place for him."

In four plate appearances last night, Feliz saw four strikes, walked four times - a sign perhaps of his comfort zone. He scored the Phillies' first run after walking on four pitches in his first at-bat.

"To me, it's the game, you know," he said. "It could be the hitting, the pitching, running the bases. It's the game. It's not going to be the same every day. Every day you play a little different."

Often, it's not the kind of stuff that gets fans chanting your name, or bowing in reverence. But if he learned nothing else from last year's experience though, Feliz learned that it's more important they love you at the end than at the beginning.

"If you go in there and give them 110 percent, there's nothing to worry about," he said. "If they see you do that, and they boo you or whatever, there's nothing you can do. I would say, 'You know what? That's what I got.' If they didn't like it, what am I supposed to do?" *

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Author:Fox Sports
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Added: May 13, 2009

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