ARLINGTON, Texas -- With 33 games to go, Alexi Ogando has pitched 115 2/3 fewer innings than in all of 2011 -- that's not a misprint -- and Texas Rangers manager Ron Washington isn't the least bit disappointed.
Ogando was an All-Star a season ago as a starter before eventually moving back to the bullpen in September and throughout the playoffs, where he finally wilted.
The lanky Dominican returned to the bullpen full time this season. Combined with a hamstring injury early on during interleague play at San Francisco and a relief corps that's allowed for rest here and there, Ogando has pitched just 53 1/3 innings and his powerful right arm appears to be thriving heading into the stretch run.
"Early on there were times when we didn’t want him to get him in the ballgame, but we had to get him in anyways," Washington said. "But lately when we’ve wanted to keep him out we’ve been able to do just that. So, I think it will help him."
It appears to be already. Ogando was dominant in Monday's relief stint when he struck out two in a perfect seventh inning, Ogando's designated spot ahead of electric duo Mike Adams and closer Joe Nathan when things go according to plan as they did in Monday's 6-5 win over the Tampa Bay Rays.
The outing was Ogando's fifth in a row without allowing a run, something he's done now in 10 of 11 appearances in August. His 11 innings worked this month makes for his busiest month since May, nearly doubling his innings worked in June and July combined when he allowed six earned runs in seven innings. He's allowed just two earned runs in August on a couple of solo homers in the same game at Yankee Stadium on Aug. 14.
"I see him maintaining velocity pretty good," Washington said. "I really do."
In August, Ogando has allowed nine hits and two walks, and he's fanned 13. In five of his 11 outings he hasn't allowed a baserunner, and he's struck out five with no walks in his last 2 1/3 innings of work. In his Monday outing, the radar gun was flashing 98 and 99 mph on his fastball.
"His slider is the key because they can figure out a fastball," Washington said. "But when he can throw his slider over the plate -- and it’s a power slider -- then it’s hard to differentiate, and that makes him at his best."
Which he's certainly been this month. And that's encouraging news for the Rangers, who arguably boast the most formidable seventh-eighth-ninth inning bullpen in baseball. It's of even greater importance if the Rangers' unheralded starters repeat performances of the 2011 postseason when none got through six innings until Derek Holland's gem in Game 4 of the World Series.
"It showed because my bullpen ran out of gas," Washington said. "The first two months of the season we relied on them (the bullpen) heavily," Washington said. "Now we’re in the second half of the season and they’ve been getting a lot of rest, which is going to work in our favor -- hopefully."