Red Sox pitching prospect Durbin Feltman on Rule 5 Draft getting cancelled: ‘It was kind of a gut punch’

Under normal circumstances, Red Sox pitching prospect Durbin Feltman likely would have been targeted by other clubs this off-season. Not via trade, but via the Rule 5 Draft.

After a bounce-back 2021 season in which he posted a 2.96 ERA and 3.87 FIP with 62 strikeouts to 14 walks over 39 relief appearances (51 2/3 innings pitched) between Double-A Portland and Triple-A Worcester, Feltman was left off Boston’s 40-man roster last November.

That decision left the right-handed reliever up for grabs in the 2021 Rule 5 Draft, which was set to take place the following month. Instead, the months-long MLB lockout postponed the Rule 5 Draft indefinitely until it was cancelled altogether last week.

As a result of that move, players who could be on the verge of the major-leagues but are blocked by others in their organization were denied the opportunity to go elsewhere and potentially thrive with a new team. The Red Sox were the beneficiaries of this last year when they scooped up Garrett Whitlock from the Yankees.

Unable to live out his own Whitlock-like dream as a Rule 5 pick this year, Feltman — who turns 25 next month — recently expressed his frustration to WEEI’s Rob Bradford.

“It was frustrating and disappointing when they made that decision to not put me on the 40-man in November,” Feltman said. “So my goal my whole off-season was do everything I can to be a Rule 5 Draft pick. And then to see that canceled was kind of a gut punch — kind of like making the playoffs and them canceling the whole postseason. That’s out of my control now, so now it’s going back to work and trying to debut with the Red Sox.

“It was really frustrating when they came out with the news,” he added. “It’s kind of heart-breaking. You can’t control it anymore, so just keep going from there. Everybody hopes for an opportunity, especially with the Rule 5. It’s almost like a lottery ticket. … [When the lockout was extended], I could kind of read the writing on the wall, but I didn’t want to believe it until they actually came out with it and then it hurt even more. Yeah, it sucks.”

A former third-round draft pick of the Red Sox out of Texas Christian University in 2018, Feltman is currently regarded by SoxProspects.com as the No. 48 prospect in Boston’s farm system.

While he may not have been added to the Sox’ 40-man roster last fall, the hard-throwing righty did just receive an invite to major-league spring training in Fort Myers after participating in minor-league camp. Earlier last week, Alex Cora remarked that Feltman “physically looks really good.”

The 24-year-old hurler is projected by SoxProspects.com to return to Worcester’s bullpen for the start of the 2022 season. As he told Bradford, though, his goal is to make his big-league debut with the Red Sox this year.

(Picture of Durbin Feltman: Katie Morrison/MassLive)

Could Red Sox lose pitching prospect Durbin Feltman in Rule 5 Draft?

If there is a Rule 5 Draft before the start of the 2022 MLB season, the Red Sox — like all other teams — will be at risk of losing some minor-league players.

After adding the likes of Brayan Bello, Kutter Crawford, Josh Winckowski, and Jeter Downs to their 40-man roster in November, Boston now has 60 minor-leaguers who are eligible for the Rule 5 Draft, according to SoxProspects.com.

The major-league phase of the 2021 Rule 5 Draft was scheduled to take place during December’s winter meetings, but was and remains indefinitely postponed as a result of the ongoing lockout.

As of now, there is no guarantee that a Rule 5 Draft will take place before the season starts or there will be a 2022 major-league season to begin with. Under the assumption that a deal gets between MLB and the MLBPA gets done within the next few weeks, FanGraphs’ Kevin Goldstein wrote on Monday that front offices believe “they will get somewhere in the neighborhood of seven days from the joint presser of an agreement and starting spring training.”

At the time the Red Sox protected the four previously listed prospects from the Rule 5 Drat last fall, chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom had mentioned how it was difficult to determine how many players they would be protecting and how many they would wind up exposing.

“We had a few tough calls, and I think some of that is a credit to the depth we built up in the system,” said Bloom. “Any time you add someone or leave someone off, in some sense it’s a calculated gamble. Over time, you learn sometimes the best way to lose a player is to add somebody that you shouldn’t. It might lead to you being in a crunch down the road, experiencing that pain of losing a player in another way, whether it’s that [unprotected] player or someone else.

“Knowing there are other things we want to accomplish this off-season with our 40-man roster and players we’d like to bring in both during the off-season and as we get into next year, wanting to have as much space as possible, that’s something you have to factor into the decisions you make,” he added. “So there were a few that were not easy, but ultimately, this is how we felt most comfortable.”

By adding four prospects to their 40-man roster in November, the Sox brought up the size of their 40-man to 37 players. They then non-tendered outfielder Tim Locastro, signed a trio of veteran pitchers (Michael Wacha, Rich Hill, and James Paxton) to major-league deals, and traded Hunter Renfroe to the Brewers for fellow outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. as well as a pair of prospects.

That flurry of moves increased the size of Boston’s 40-man roster to 39 players right before the lockout commenced on Dec. 2. It remains that way to this day thanks to the work stoppage.

Based off what Goldstein wrote, though, it does appear that the Rule 5 Draft is still on and will be completed before Opening Day — whenever that may be.

With that being said, The Athletic’s Keith Law recently suggested that the Red Sox could lose pitching prospect Durbin Feltman in the Rule 5 Draft if it does indeed happen.

Feltman, who turns 25 in April, was originally selected by Boston in the third round of the 2018 amateur draft out of Texas Christian University. The right-handed reliever opened the 2021 season with Double-A Portland and closed it with Triple-A Worcester.

Between the two levels, Feltman posted a 2.96 ERA and and 3.87 FIP to go along with 62 strikeouts to just 14 walks over 39 appearances spanning 51 2/3 innings of work.

Despite those solid numbers, the 24-year-old was not added to the Sox’ 40-man roster in November, thus leaving him eligible for the Rule 5 Draft.

“Feltman had a solid year between Double and Triple A, working more in the low 90s now, topping out at 95 mph instead of the upper 90s he showed in college,” Law wrote of the righty. “He walked just four guys in 24 Triple-A innings to close out the season, and since the Red Sox declined to add him to their 40-man roster, he seems likely to be a Rule 5 pick for someone.”

Given the fact that he was left off the Red Sox’ 40-man roster, it does seem like the club is relatively low on Feltman at this point. This is reflected by him not receiving an invite to the team’s Winter Warm-Up program in Fort Myers last month and that he has fallen down to No. 48 in SoxProspects.com’s prospect rankings.

“He was trending down based on looks and reports last season and he was in danger of this kind of drop in the spring if his stuff was the same,” SoxProspects.com’s Chris Hatfield tweeted on January 24. “When he wasn’t invited to the Winter Warm-Up, comparing to those who were, that was sort of telling.”

Coming out of TCU, Feltman had the projection of a high-leverage reliever who could work his way through the minors quickly. After four years in pro ball, it now appears that the Texas-born hurler has the ceiling of a middle reliever at the big-league level.

As SoxProspects.com’s director of scouting Ian Cundall wrote last year, “middle relievers like [Feltman] are often left unprotected.” The Red Sox must have felt this way, but could another team be willing to poach Feltman away from Boston if they felt he had some untapped potential?

Only time will tell.

(Picture of Durbin Feltman: Katie Morrison/MassLive)

WooSox Notes: Hirokazu Sawamura perfect in rehab outing; Kutter Crawford and Durbin Feltman solid in Polar Park debuts

The Worcester Red Sox fell to the Buffalo Bisons by a final score of 5-1 at Polar Park on Wednesday, marking their fifth consecutive loss.

While the WooSox did drop to 37-34 in their second of six against the Bisons, there were some positive developments — some of which will definitely pique the Red Sox’ interest.

Sawamura perfect in rehab appearance

Rehabbing reliever Hirokazu Sawamura opened the game for Worcester and needed all of 13 pitches — nine of which were strikes — to toss a perfect first inning in which he struck out one and got two to softly ground out.

Sawamura, who has been on the injured list since July 23 due to right triceps inflammation, had his stint on the IL backdated to July 20, meaning he could be activated as soon as Friday.

Barring any setbacks it seems likely that the 33-year-old righty will come off the injured list ahead of this weekend’s series against the Rays in Tampa Bay.

Crawford solid in Triple-A debut

Red Sox pitching prospect Kutter Crawford made his Triple-A debut on Wednesday and was quite impressive in his first action in a WooSox uniform.

Taking over for Sawamura, Crawford yielded three runs — all of which were earned — on nine hits and just one walk to go along with five strikeouts on the afternoon.

Of those nine hits the right-hander allowed, three were infield singles and seven were on soft contact, according to WooSox broadcaster Mike Antonellis.

Finishing with a final pitch count of 85 (59 strikes), Crawford ended his day by retiring six of the final seven hitters he faced.

Crawford, 25, was promoted from Double-A Portland to Triple-A Worcester last week after posting a 3.30 ERA and 2.85 xFIP to go along with 64 strikeouts to just five walks over 10 starts (46 1/3 innings pitched) with the Sea Dogs to begin the season.

The Red Sox originally selected the 6-foot-1, 192 pound hurler in the 16th round of the 2017 amateur draft out of Florida Gulf Coast University.

Crawford entered the 2019 campaign as the No. 22 prospect in Boston’s farm system according to Baseball America and ultimately underwent Tommy John surgery that fall before having bone spurs removed from his throwing elbow the following summer.

His next start for the WooSox will likely come on the road against the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders next Tuesday.

Feltman works his way around trouble in Polar Park debut

Like Crawford, fellow Red Sox pitching prospect Durbin Feltman made his first-ever appearance at Polar Park on Wednesday.

Working directly in relief of Crawford, Feltman issued a leadoff double to Bisons shortstop Kevin Smith to begin things in the eighth, but maneuvered his way around that by sitting down the next three batters he faced on a pair of fly outs and a lineout.

Of the 11 pitches Feltman needed to get through the eighth inning of Wednesday’s contest, seven went for strikes.

The 24-year-old right-handed reliever was promoted to Triple-A on July 23 and got rocked for three runs on four hits over two innings against the Lehigh Valley IronPigs that very same day.

Originally selected by Boston in the third round of the 2018 amateur draft out of Texas Christian University, Feltman — listed at 6-foot-2 and 207 pounds — opened the 2021 campaign with Double-A Portland and put up a 3.29 ERA and 3.62 xFIP in addition to 37 strikeouts and 10 walks over 22 relief appearances spanning 27 1/3 innings pitched.

Both Crawford and Feltman can become eligible for the Rule 5 Draft for the first time in their respective careers this winter, so there is a possibility that either one of the two righties could be dealt ahead of Friday’s trade deadline.

If not, they would need to be added to Boston’s 40-man roster before November 20 in order to be protected from this winter’s Rule 5 Draft.

(Picture of Hirokazu Sawamura: Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

Red Sox promote prospects Kutter Crawford, Durbin Feltman, and Grant Williams from Double-A Portland to Triple-A Worcester

The Red Sox have promoted a trio of prospects from Double-A Portland to Triple-A Worcester, the team announced Friday afternoon.

Pitching prospects Kutter Crawford and Durbin Feltman, as well as infield prospect Grant Williams, all received promotions from the Sea Dogs to the WooSox.

Crawford, 25, has put together a strong 2021 season for Portland after undergoing Tommy John surgery in October 2019 and having bone spurs removed from his throwing elbow the following summer.

In 10 starts with the Sea Dogs, the right-hander posted a 3.30 ERA and 2.87 xFIP to go along with 64 strikeouts to just five walks over 46 1/3 innings of work. He most recently put together an outing in which he allowed two runs on seven walks, nine strikeouts, and zero walks in six innings against the Harrisburg Senators on Wednesday.

Originally selected by the Red Sox in the 16th round of the 2017 amateur draft out of Florida Gulf Coast University, Crawford — who is listed at 6-foot-1 and 192 pounds — will wear the No. 31 for the WooSox.

Feltman, 24, opened the 2021 campaign in Portland’s bullpen and put up ERA of 3.29 and xFIP of 3.63 in addition to 37 strikeouts and 10 walks over 22 relief appearances spanning 27 1/3 innings pitched.

The Texas-born right-hander this season has averaged 12.2 strikeouts per nine innings and 3.3 walks per nine innings, which coincides with his strikeout rate of 32.7% and his walk rate of 8.8%.

Listed at 6-foot and 207 pounds, Feltman was selected by Boston in the third round of the 2018 amateur draft out of Texas Christian University. He will wear the No. 28 while with Worcester.

Williams, 25, was promoted to the WooSox after seeing the majority of his playing time to start the season come in the middle infield for the Sea Dogs.

A former 10th round pick out of Kennesaw State (Ga.) in 2018, the left-handed hitter slashed .291/.326/.369 to go along with 10 doubles, two triples, 10 RBI, 31 runs scored, seven stolen bases, eight walks, and just 12 strikeouts over 52 games (193 plate appearances).

In those 52 games, Williams has played second base 47 times and shortstop seven times.

A native of Atlanta, Ga., Williams is listed at 5-foot-10 and 185 pounds. He will wear the No. 5 for the WooSox.

All three of Crawford, Feltman, and Williams are eligible for the Rule 5 Draft this winter, meaning they would need to be added to the Red Sox’ 40-man roster by the November 20 deadline in order to prevent that from happening.

(Picture of Kutter Crawford: Kelly O’Connor/sittingstill.smugmug.com)

Durbin Feltman, A.J. Politi, Thaddeus Ward among 12 players included in Red Sox’ first round of spring roster cuts

Before taking on the Rays in Port Charlotte on Tuesday afternoon, the Red Sox announced their first round of spring training roster cuts.

In total, 12 players — two catchers, 10 pitchers — were reassigned by the club to the minor-leagues.

Catchers (2): Roldani Baldwin, Austin Rei

Pitchers (10): Seth Blair, Matt Carasiti, Raynel Espinal, Durbin Feltman, Frank German, Zac Grotz, Kaleb Ort, A.J. Politi, Thaddeus Ward, Josh Winckowski

All 12 players cut on Tuesday were initially invited to big-league camp as non-roster invitees, so these moves are not exactly surprising.

According to Baseball America, Ward is the No. 10 prospect and Politi is the No. 27 prospect in Boston’s farm system heading into the 2021 season. Both right-handers are projected to begin the year with Double-A Portland as part of the Sea Dogs’ starting rotation.

German and Winckowski, meanwhile, are two pitching prospects the Sox acquired via trade this offseason.

The 23-year-old German was part of the deal between the Red Sox and Yankees that brought Adam Ottavino to Boston, while the 22-year-old Winckowski was part of the three-team swap that sent Andrew Benintendi to the Kansas City Royals.

They, too, are right-handed pitchers and are both projected to start the 2021 campaign in Portland.

Just because these players were reassigned, that does not prevent them from appearing in additional Grapefruit League games this spring. Feltman and Ward are both expected to pitch against the Rays on Tuesday, for example.

When they are not playing in games, players reassigned to the minors will remain in Fort Myers, but will work out at different times than those who are still on the major-league roster.

Following Tuesday’s round of cuts, the Sox now have 22 non-roster invitees at big-league camp, bringing the total size of their spring training roster down to 62 players.

(Picture of Thaddeus Ward: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

What pitching in front of fans again meant for Red Sox prospect Durbin Feltman

Red Sox pitching prospect Durbin Feltman made his first appearance of the spring against the Orioles in Sarasota on Thursday afternoon.

Working in relief of fellow right-hander Tanner Houck, Feltman came on in the bottom half of the third inning with two outs to get and the bases loaded in what was at the time a one-run game in favor of Boston.

The 23-year-old managed to limit the damage, as he allowed just one inherited runner to score on a sacrifice fly before getting Ramon Urias to ground out to second to retire the side.

For Feltman, who made his 2021 Grapefruit League debut in front of approximately 1,700 spectators at Ed Smith Stadium, it was his first time pitching with fans in the stands since August 2019.

“It was just good to be out there in front of fans,” Feltman told BloggingtheRedSox.com Thursday night. “It brings back the atmosphere of the game and I couldn’t be happier to have people in the stands no matter the capacity. It causes you to have to lock in more during the game, which I think in turn helps you perform better. I love it.”

One of 30-plus non-roster invitees currently at big-league camp for the Red Sox, Feltman should find his way into more games between now and the end of the month.

Boston selected the flame-throwing righty in the third-round of the 2018 amateur draft out of Texas Christian University. He proceeded to post a 1.93 ERA over 22 relief appearances and 23 1/3 innings pitched between three different levels (short-season Lowell, Class-A Greenville, High-A Salem) in his inaugural season as a pro.

Feltman’s first full professional campaign, however, was a different story. The young reliever struggled to the tune of a 5.26 ERA and 5.02 FIP in 43 appearances and 51 1/3 innings of work out of the bullpen for Double-A Portland in 2019.

The inconsistencies Feltman displayed with the Sea Dogs in ’19 likely worked against him when the Red Sox were deciding who to include in their 60-man player pool the following summer after the 2020 minor-league season was cancelled due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

From the middle of July through the end of September, they had the opportunity to invite Feltman to their alternate training site in Pawtucket, but did not take it.

That, in turn, motivated the Texas native as he made preparations to participate in the team’s fall instructional league in Fort Myers.

“I came in there with a chip on my shoulder and was like ‘Hey, this is what you missed out on at the alternate site,’” Feltman said back in December. “Hopefully I showed enough, I felt like I did. And I’m carrying that into 2021 as well.”

Feltman did indeed show enough at instructs this past fall to get an invite to major-league camp this spring after not receiving one a year ago.

The 6-foot, 208 pounder is currently regarded by SoxProspects.com as the No. 30 prospect in Boston’s farm system. He is projected to begin the year at the club’s alternate training site in Worcester after the start of the Triple-A season was recently pushed back to May.

2021 could prove to be a pivotal year for Feltman simply because he can become eligible for the Rule 5 Draft for the first time in his career this December. The Red Sox would need to add the former Horned Frog to their 40-man roster before November 20 in order to prevent that from happening.

“Obviously, I don’t want to have to go through the Rule 5 Draft,” he said. “Because if you’ve been in the big-leagues you’re not getting Rule 5 drafted.”

With that thought in mind, it would appear that Feltman, who turns 24 next month, is shooting to make his major-league debut — or at the very least be added to the Sox’ 40-man roster — at some point this season. He has plenty of time to prove that he belongs.

(Picture of Durbin Feltman: Zachary Roy/Getty Images)

Red Sox pitching prospect Andrew Politi, a potential sleeper for 2021, receives invite to major-league spring training

Along with Durbin Feltman, fellow right-handed pitching prospect Andrew Politi was one of 22 Red Sox minor-leaguers to receive an invite to major-league spring training on Friday.

The 24-year-old was originally selected by Boston in the 15th round of the 2018 amateur draft out of Seton Hall University. He signed with the team for only $25,000 that June, and according to The Athletic’s Keith Law, he could be a major sleeper this year.

“Politi was Boston’s 15th-round pick in 2018, a senior signed out of Seton Hall,” Law, who ranked Politi as the No. 15 prospect in the Sox’ farm system, wrote on Thursday, “but his stuff picked up over the last two years and he’s now showing mid-90s velocity with a curveball and cutter — even as he moved from a relief role to the rotation. He needs better control and command, and he’s on the smaller side for a starter, but there’s some starter upside here.

“Politi could make a jump this year, at least into their top 10 if not the global list,” Law added.

Last time he saw any organized minor-league action, the New Jersey native posted a 3.55 ERA and 3.17 xFIP over 33 appearances (five starts) and 78 2/3 innings of work for High-A Salem in 2019.

Politi emerged as a regular starter for Salem towards the tail end of the 2019 campaign in late August, and he dazzled by yielding just three runs (two earned) on three hits, five walks, and 17 strikeouts over his final three starts (13 1/3 innings pitched) of the season.

While he was not included in the Sox’ 60-man player pool nor invited to the Sox’ alternate training site any point in 2020, the 6-foot, 191 lb. hurler did participate in the club’s fall instructional league.

There in Fort Myers, according to SoxProspects.com’s director of scouting Ian Cundall, Politi put his diverse pitch mix on display for scouts to see.

“Though he worked his way into the Salem rotation at the end of 2019, scouts see right-hander Andrew Politi as a reliever all the way,” Cundall wrote back in November. “His delivery has a lot of effort, and his command was inconsistent at Instructs. His fastball sat 93-95 mph and he mixed in an average slider. He also showed a changeup and curveball, and seemed to be working on a cutter as well. “

What Cundall gathered about Politi seems to differ from what Law gathered, but one thing is clear: Politi has potential. Whether that be as a starter or reliever has yet to be determined, but that notion became clear on Friday when he received an invite to big-league camp.

Like Feltman, Politi is also eligible for the Rule 5 Draft for the first time in his career this December, so it goes without saying that 2021 will be an important year for him.

Projected to begin the upcoming minor-league season with Double-A Portland, Politi, who turns 25 in June, is currently regarded by SoxProspects.com as the organization’s 40th-ranked prospect.

(Picture of Andrew Politi: Kelly O’Connor/sittingstill.smugmug.com)

Red Sox pitching prospect Durbin Feltman one of 22 non-roster invitees added to club’s spring training roster

Right-handed pitching prospect Durbin Feltman was one of 22 non-roster invitees that the Red Sox added to their spring training roster earlier Friday evening. He will be one of 30 players the club invited to major-league spring training when camp begins next week.

The 23-year-old, like a majority of minor-leaguers, did not have any sort of season to take part in last year.

Some had the luxury of being invited to their respective team’s alternate training sites over the course of the 2020 season, but Feltman was not one of them.

Instead, the former 2018 third-round draft pick out of Texas Christian University was on his own, and he was rather disappointed to not be included in the Sox’ 60-man player pool at any point last season.

“I was frustrated, upset,” Feltman told BloggingtheRedSox.com back in December. “Just not being invited [after] thinking I was going to go — I was frustrated the whole time because I figured ‘Hey, I’m going to use this time the best I can.’ I’m not going to get time like this again, barring another pandemic, to be able to do whatever I want and work on things. So, I used it the best I could and figured out some stuff. I feel like I figured out a lot.”

By figuring a lot out on his own time over the summer, the flame-throwing reliever was able to bring with him to the Sox’ fall instructional league a chip on his shoulder. He was out to show the club what they missed out on by not inviting him to the alternate site.

“I came in there with a chip on my shoulder and was like ‘Hey, this is what you missed out on at the alternate site,'” Feltman said. “Hopefully I showed enough, I felt like I did. And I’m carrying that into 2021 as well.”

According to SoxProspects.com’s director of scouting Ian Cundall, Feltman “put in the work at instructs, as he looked much closer to the pitcher we saw in 2018 than he did at any time in 2019. Feltman’s velocity came back, as he was up to 96 mph, mostly sitting 93-94 mph. His 85-87 mph slider flashed above-average potential, and even though it was not as crisp as it used to be, he still was able to use it to get swinging strikes. He also mixed in his low-80s curveball, which was a good change of pace to his slider.”

While Cundall noted that Feltman’s ability to control and command the strike zone are still long-term concerns, he also wrote that “the stuff he showed at Instructs definitely could play in a middle relief role at the major-league level.”

Feltman, who turns 24 in April, is eligible for this year’s Rule 5 Draft in December unless he is added to Boston’s 40-man roster by November 20.

“Obviously, I don’t want to have to go through the Rule 5 Draft,” the Texas native said. “Because if you’ve been in the big-leagues you’re not getting Rule 5 drafted.”

Having pointed that out, it would appear that Feltman would not be opposed to making his major-league debut this year, or at the very least impress enough to make the Sox’ 40-man roster by the November deadline.

With those goals in mind, Feltman — currently regarded by SoxProspects.com as the organization’s No. 29 prospect — being invited to Red Sox spring training as a non-roster invite is surely a step in the right direction.

(Picture of Durbin Feltman: Kelly O’Connor/sittingstill.smugmug.com)

Red Sox pitching prospect Durbin Feltman, a Texas native, grew up a Patriots fan thanks to Super Bowl 38

Even before he was drafted by the Red Sox in the third round of the 2018 amateur draft, Durbin Feltman’s New England connections ran deep.

Despite being born and raised in the Houston area, the 23-year-old right-hander grew up a fan of the New England Patriots.

One might think that may be due to former Patriots quarterback Tom Brady’s rise to stardom in the early 2000s, but Feltman’s fandom actually goes back to the days leading up to Super Bowl 38 in Houston.

Then six years old, Feltman had the chance to attend some of the fan-centered events with his family the week of the big game.

“They came to play in Houston in the Super Bowl in ’04 against the [Carolina] Panthers, so we went downtown to all the fan events,” Feltman explained to BloggingtheRedSox.com last week. “I’m like six at the time and at that age, you have no idea what’s going on in football. So, I was like ‘Ooh, I like this team’ and ever since then I was like ‘All right, well, they won the Super Bowl then.’ I picked them the week before the Super Bowl, and then I was just hooked ever since.”

Still, even though Brady may not have been Feltman’s sole reason for becoming a Patriots fan, the six-time Super Bowl champion certainly helped seal the deal.

“Once I actually got to know what was going on, Brady just solidified it,” the righty said. “Just watching how he works and just being a winner and doing whatever it takes to win. Probably the hardest worker out there [yet] he’s not the most talented guy. He’s got some gifts, obviously, but I try to take that same mindset of: I’m not 6’6”, I’m not super physically gifted, so it’s just ‘Hey you got to work. You got to work.’

“And he goes day in and day out, just does everything he can,” added Feltman. “Does his job, puts his head down, and goes to work. He solidified it, but he wasn’t the only reason — he wasn’t the main reason I picked them.”

Because Brady was not the main reason Feltman chose to support the Patriots way back when, he still closely follows the team today despite their struggles. The flame-throwing hurler gave his prognosis on what’s gone wrong in New England in 2020.

“It’s been a tough year,” he said. “We need some weapons, we really need some weapons. It’s been tough watching Brady. I’m still rooting for him down in Tampa, but man, it’s almost unnatural to watch the Patriots do what they’re doing. They were two plays away from being 8-4, three plays away from being 9-4, now they’re 6-8 after losing to Miami.

“We got to either find a new quarterback — I don’t feel like Cam [Newton] is too bad — but we need some new receivers, new tight ends,” Feltman continued. “We got a whole running back corps, just got to fix up the offense to do something. We haven’t scored a [passing] touchdown since [Jarrett] Stidham threw one three weeks ago, so it’s been tough.”

As a Patriots fan himself, Feltman had the opportunity to live with some native New England football fans when he played for the Falmouth Commodores of the Cape Cod Baseball League in 2017.

“They were awesome,” Feltman said of his host family that summer. “They came up to Lowell and saw me play. I flew up there, we went to a Patriots game together, got to watch Tom Brady beat up on Aaron Rodgers on Sunday Night Football, which was awesome. They were awesome.”

Feltman, then in between his sophomore and junior seasons at Texas Christian University, posted a 1.69 ERA and 1.13 WHIP over five appearances and 5 1/3 innings pitched for Falmouth in 2017.

Red Sox pitching prospect Durbin Feltman intends to be more aggressive in the strike zone in 2021

Right-hander Durbin Feltman entered the 2019 season as the Red Sox’ No. 11 prospect according to Baseball America.

Fresh off an inaugural 2018 campaign in which he split time between short-season Lowell, Low-A Greenville, and High-A Salem and posted a miniscule 1.93 ERA over 22 total appearances, the third-round draft pick out of Texas Christian University was facing rather lofty expectations as he embarked on his first full professional season.

Spending the entirety of the 2019 season with Double-A Portland, Feltman struggled to the tune of a 5.26 ERA and 5.02 FIP over 43 outings and 51 1/3 innings of work.

This summer, after the 2020 minor-league season had already been cancelled due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the Red Sox decided against including Feltman in its 60-man player pool while a number of the organization’s top pitching prospects, such as Tanner Houck, Bryan Mata, and Jay Groome were.

These prospects spent their summers working out and playing in intrasquad games at the Sox’ alternate training site in Pawtucket. Prospects such as Feltman, meanwhile, remained at their respective homes.

The 23-year-old recently spoke with BloggingtheRedSox.com about this experience.

“I was frustrated, upset,” Feltman said of not being included in the 60-man pool. “Just not being invited [after] thinking I was going to go — I was frustrated the whole time because I figured ‘Hey, I’m going to use this time the best I can.’ I’m not going to get time like this again, barring another pandemic, to be able to do whatever I want and work on things. So, I used it the best I could and figured out some stuff. I feel like I figured out a lot.”

Having seemingly turned a corner on his own time, Feltman went into the Red Sox’ fall instructional league in Fort Myers and thoroughly impressed thanks to some added motivation.

“I came in there with a chip on my shoulder and was like ‘Hey, this is what you missed out on at the alternate site,'” he added. “Hopefully I showed enough, I felt like I did. And I’m carrying that into 2021 as well.”

While he had to wait a little bit to report to fall instructs in early October, Feltman was able to hone his craft while at home as opposed to the alternate training this summer. The Red Sox even gave him some things to work on.

“I was in a sticky situation,” said Feltman. “They were taking MLB depth and they didn’t see me as MLB depth yet because I’m obviously really young. They gave us stuff to work on, stuff I had been working on — having a repeatable delivery and just getting back to what I used to do in 2018. I feel like I’m closing in, and I’m not trying to revert back to [2018], but I’m also trying to get better. So, I feel like I’m in a really good spot right now, going down there and working with them and then working on my own.”

An aspect the Red Sox would like to see Feltman improve upon, as he mentioned, was having a more repeatable delivery. The flame-throwing righty went into more depth with that.

“I worked a lot on making things easier — more repeatable and easier,” the Houston-area native said. “I got into the mindset of trying to create more with everything, just trying to create more, and that’s not what I needed to do. So now, it’s just being easy and letting it go. The velocity’s ticking back up, it’s not quite where I want it to be yet, but it’s getting back up there. The ball’s coming out better now just playing catch than it was in instructs and even during the summer.

“Just continuing to work and figuring out those little things,” Feltman continued. “Just making it smooth and basically just being an athlete on the mound instead of worrying about every little thing.”

One thing Feltman does have to worry about while on the mound is which pitch he is going to throw and where said pitch is going to end up. The former Horned Frog’s pitch arsenal currently consists of a fastball, a slider, and a curveball. He discussed how he can use each of those pitches to his advantage.

“Obviously I have my fastball,” Feltman stated. “It has a little bit of a cut to it sometimes when I throw it to the glove side, so I try to throw it up in the zone and then to my glove side. Then I have my slider. I’m finally getting back to how I throw my upper-80s power-slider and just getting a feel for that, being able to throw it in any count. And then, I switched back my grip to my old curveball, just a 12-6 to play off that high fastball or drop it in when I need a get-me-over strike to show them something else. I don’t throw any changeups or anything that moves arm-side, so just being able to show a change of speed from hard to power breaking ball and then flip in a low-80s curveball. It just puts that in the back of the mind that ‘Hey, you got to watch out for that, too.'”

Despite this sound strategy, there were instances last year in Portland where Feltman would regularly fall behind in counts, which in turn led to 13.9% walk rate. He attributed this to a tendency to nibble the corners of the strike zone after falling behind in counts, and is now aiming to be more aggressive in the strike zone moving forward.

“I feel like it was just a snowball effect of one thing led to another led to another led to another,” Feltman said. “I go up there and it’s cold, so my velo’s down a little bit, so I’m trying to create more. Obviously, I’m getting in hitter’s counts because I’m not commanding like I should and then you’re obviously going to have higher batting averages in hitter’s counts. So, I’m giving up hits here and there, so I’m like ‘Okay, they’re hitting me.’ Well, no, you’re doing it to yourself, getting in 3-0, 3-1 counts. That kind of led to ‘I’ve got to nibble here, nibble there.’ I can’t let him hit it early in the count and that’s just getting away from what I do.

“I’ve gone back to ‘Hey, get ahead early in the count, don’t try to nibble, just be aggressive in the strike zone. My stuff’s going to play in the strike zone,'” he added. “It’s amazing what happens, you get swings and misses left and right if you’re confident throwing it in the strike zone. That’s kind of the mentality I’ve gone back to: Get ahead early. You get ahead early, it’s a whole different ballgame. It makes it so much easier… The odds are in your favor if you’ve got two strikes.”

With this more aggressive approach in mind, Feltman is going to take what he learned from 2019 and work to throw more strikes earlier in counts in 2021.

“That’s going to help two things,” he said. “It’s going to help increase strikeouts, so your strikeout rate, and it’s also going to help decrease my walk rate. What I’m working on is being able to throw all three of my pitches for strikes — and not just strikes — quality strikes, and then just keeping that same mentality: Be aggressive early, be aggressive early. I feel like if I do that, everything will take care of itself.”

Feltman, who turns 24 in April, is currently regarded by SoxProspects.com as Boston’s No. 28 prospect. The TCU alum, listed at 6-feet and 205 lbs., will be eligible for the Rule 5 Draft next December, but he has not thought about that too much and is more focused on getting to the big-leagues as soon as possible.

“Obviously, I don’t want to have to go through the Rule 5 Draft, because if you’ve been in the big-leagues you’re not getting Rule 5 drafted,” he said.

(Top photo of Feltman: Kelly O’Connor/sittingstill.smugmug.com)