It appears that title will go to someone else in 2011. Feliciano said on Thursday that he is leaning toward having surgery to repair a capsule tear in his pitching shoulder, a serious procedure which would end his season before it even started.
"I want to be here," Feliciano said. "I'm a guy who wants to pitch every day, like I've been doing for the last three or four years. To be shut down for maybe a year, I don't know how I'm going to handle it. That's going to be hard."
Feliciano, 34, signed a two-year, $8 million deal with the Yankees over the winter, switching bullpen boroughs after excelling as the Mets' left-handed specialist. He made 344 relief appearances since the start of 2007, marking an all-time record for appearances over a four-year stretch.
He has been unable to get back on a mound since March, he's currently listed on the 15-day disabled list, and a dye-contrast MRI taken on Wednesday showed the capsule damage.
Feliciano plans to consult with Dr. James Andrews on Monday and should have a final decision on Tuesday, but general manager Brian Cashman said the Yankees are expecting Andrews to concur with the initial diagnosis recommending surgery.
"Most likely, that opinion will hold up, unfortunately," Cashman said. "It's not like this is a close call. It seems to be a very obvious diagnosis. In all likelihood, we're looking at a significant surgery."
Feliciano expressed confidence that he would be able to pitch at the beginning of 2012 if he has the surgery as soon as possible, but Cashman compared Feliciano's injury to the malady that has derailed the career of Chien-Ming Wang, a two-time 19-game winner for the Yankees.
"Capsule tears are very serious," Cashman said. "Can he come back and be Pedro Feliciano? I couldn't tell you yet. We'll wait to see what Andrews is going to say, but it's a Chien-Ming Wang issue, and he's still trying to come back with Washington. The odds are a lot more difficult."
Feliciano had a shoulder issue in 1999, which cost him the entire season but had not bothered the hurler since. He believes the current injury could stem from lifting weights during Spring Training with the Yankees, and did not blame the Mets for allowing him to pitch so often.
"Every year when I finished my last game, I was healthy," Feliciano said. "I never can say in '09 or '10 I was tired or in pain when I was pitching. I was fine and I wanted to be in there every day."