Alexi Ogando: 'A very special weapon'
The club is expected to make its rotation official later today and Ogando's name won't be in it. Barring some discomfort from Neftali Feliz in a bullpen session, the Rangers will roll into the regular season with Colby Lewis, Derek Holland, Matt Harrison, Yu Darvish and Feliz (likely in that order).
Let's not forget: This guy was an All-Star as a starter. But on the two-time defending AL champs, an organization once known only for monster bats, starting pitching exists in abundance. Even Roy Oswalt wasn't able to crack this staff. And neither, it seems, can Ogando, who was 7-0 with a 2.10 ERA in his first 12 starts in 2011 and made his first All-Star team. Not bad, considering Ogando was told the morning of March 24, 2011, that he was going to the bullpen only to find out a day later that he was in the rotation when Tommy Hunter suffered a groin strain.
But it was Ogando's use in the postseason, coupled with the club's desire to see Feliz in the rotation, that has the 28-year-old pointing toward the bullpen in 2012. Ogando gave the Rangers a unique option in the postseason. He was able to pitch to key batters in the sixth, seventh or eighth. He could go multiple innings and pitch on consecutive days. He became the first choice for manager Ron Washington in order to bridge the game from the starter to the closer.
"Ogando is very versatile," Washington said. "He's a special weapon, a very special weapon."
Washington has talked to Ogando a few times this spring and plans on doing so again, once things are fully sorted out. The skipper says he plans on using Ogando just like he did in the playoffs last year, helping him maneuver his way through the middle or late innings with that 95 mph fastball and a sinker and changeup that Ogando is convinced has improved this spring.
If Ogando is in the bullpen the whole season, the Rangers can better guard against him hitting any walls on innings pitched. He wasn't used to the workload of a starter last year and ran out of gas in the second half of the season. He was as close to automatic in the ALDS and ALCS as you can get, retiring key batters repeatedly to help the Rangers advance to the World Series. But once there, Ogando again seemed to deal with fatigue.
Ogando pitched 2 2/3 scoreless innings against Tampa Bay in the ALDS and allowed just one run in 7 2/3 innings agianst the Detroit Tigers in the ALCS. He won two games in that series, appearing in four of the six games. But in the World Series, Ogando pitched 2 2/3 innings and gave up four runs (three earned) on seven hits -- four more hits than he gave up in the previous 10 1/3 innings worked in the postseason.
Ogando was stretched out as a starter this spring, along with Scott Feldman, as insurance options. But, unless Feliz has a setback, it appears the club's starting five will be ready to go.
Ogando would rather be a starter. And the fact that he could be starting for most big league clubs right now doesn't seem to gnaw at him.
"I don't think about that," Ogando said. "I like starting. I like being the man."
The truth is, he was "the man" in the ALDS and ALCS in his bullpen role. The Rangers hope he's "the man" in that same job description again in 2012.
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