SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Alexi Ogando hopped out of his car and walked briskly, yet relaxed, toward the Texas Rangers clubhouse on Sunday morning. The lanky 29-year-old seemed eager to get the 2013 campaign going and he expressed excitement about joining the rotation.
Ogando isn't in Surprise to compete for a spot. He already has one as one of the club's four starters. But he's hungry to show he has staying power there after spending 2012 in the bullpen.
Ogando said it was hard not to play in the World Baseball Classic, but he felt a full spring training with the club was critical for him.
"I have an opportunity to be a starter," Ogando said. "That's what I want. I want to work hard."
Ogando started in 2011 and was impressive enough out of the gate to earn an All-Star spot. He ended up 13-8 with a 3.51 ERA in 169 innings, but hit a wall in the second half and was moved to the bullpen. Ogando was a weapon in the postseason, only to hit a wall again in the World Series. Now, he has the task of showing he can accumulate a high-inning count and not get fatigued. He's worked on his strength this offseason and said he's lost five or six pounds (as an aside, Ogando looked trim and fit as he walked in today, for what that's worth).
But Ogando also realizes that his fastball -- a radar-gun breaker that is extremely tough to hit -- can't be his only way of getting opponents out. As pitching coach Mike Maddux likes to say (his brother, Greg, will tell you the same thing), it's a matter of having enough tools in the tool box and knowing when to use them. Ogando's fastball can act as a hammer. But he's adding some other tools too. He said he worked on his changeup this offseason, not to mention a two-seam fastball. Add that to his slider -- Ogando says he throws a soft and hard one (one at 81 or 82 mph, the other at 87 or 88 mph). When he was starting in 2011, he was basically throwing a fastball and slider.
Ogando said it's easier to go into the season as a starter and then, if needed, go back to the bullpen. Of course, he plans on staying in the rotation.
"I want to start," Ogando said. "I'm ready to do that."