The MLB rule change that was a 'gut punch' for one Red Sox pitcher

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Red Sox fans became intimately familiar with the value of the Rule 5 Draft in 2021. It was, after all, where one of their most valuable players - Garrett Whitlock - came from.

As Whitlock can attest, the value of the process isn't just a boon for the team. For the players involved it can be a career-altering opportunity, with teams needing to keep any draftees on the big-league roster the entire season or be forced to send them back to the original club.

It was a reality that firmly on Durbin Feltman's radar ever since the Red Sox decided not to add the former third-round pick to their 40-man roster.

The 24-year-old reliever, who dominated during his call-up to Triple-A Worcester last season (17 innings, 2.59 ERA, 25 strikeouts, 4 walks), was getting significant interest from teams who were hinting at taking Feltman in the Rule 5 Draft.

But, then, boom ... Lockout drags on. Lockout over. No Rule 5 Draft.

It was deemed by big-league baseball that there simply wasn't enough time to execute the process, which typically takes place in the first week of December.

Out of nowhere, Feltman's Whitlock-esque path to the big leagues had been derailed.

"It was frustrated and disappointing when they made that decision to not put me on the 40-man in November. So my goal my whole offseason was do everything I can to be a Rule 5 draft pick," Feltman said on the Bradfo Sho. "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. 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 …

"Once I saw that article come out a couple of weeks ago that eight owners or whatever wanted to cancel the Rule 5, I didn’t want to believe it at first, but I kind of saw it coming. And then the lockout extended and I could kind of read the writing on the wall with t but I didn’t want to believe it until they actually came out with it and then it hurt even more. Yeah, it sucks."

Now Feltman's path to the big leagues goes through Red Sox major league spring training where he has been invited to participate in camp.

The hope for the pitcher is that he can carry over the momentum built off the pause that came with the minor-league pause in 2020. After a disappointing 2019, which saw Feltman's ERA balloon to 5.26 with Double-A Portland, the righty went back to basics without an invitation to even the organization's alternate site.

"It was kind of a blessing in disguise," he said of the time away in 2020.

"It kind of gave me some time where I could do things I normally wouldn’t do in an offseason or during the season or even spring training, where I could throw a bullpen and not have to worry about getting ready for a game. I just went through some stuff, worked on my mechanics and went back to how I threw in college a little bit. I just got to break down everything I normally don’t do. I learned more about myself and how my body move during that time than I had any time playing baseball. It was just me in a cage throwing to my little brother. It was pretty cool."

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