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Spring training preview: No. 5 starter

1/24/2014

Note: Spring training will arrive before you know it. To get you ready, we'll take a look at every position between now and February, when pitchers and catchers report to Surprise, Ariz.

Today's position: No. 5 starter

The order of the rotation, of course, is yet to be determined. But we'll go with Alexi Ogando as the fifth starter, since that's how it was penciled in before Derek Holland's knee surgery altered things.

Ogando, 30, had three different stints on the disabled list in 2013 with shoulder inflammation and right biceps tendinitis and ended up 7-4 with a 3.11 ERA in 23 games (18 starts) in 104 1/3 innings.

The Rangers determined early this offseason that Ogando would be a starter. It was a decision they first made back in spring training in 2011 because of an injury to Tommy Hunter. In fact, the club was only hours removed from telling Ogando that he was going to the bullpen when Hunter's injury forced them to rethink things.

Ogando was 13-8 with a 3.51 ERA that season and became a force in the postseason with a fastball that no one could touch out of the bullpen late in games (he was used in the sixth, seventh or eighth or whenever manager Ron Washington wanted to change things up).

Team needs in 2012 dictated that Ogando go back to the bullpen, but he didn't have the same success rate. He appeared in 58 games and was 2-0 with a 3.27 ERA. The numbers weren't bad, but it wasn't the same dominant Ogando.

OUTLOOK: After injuries slowed his 2013 season, Ogando hopes to return to form as a member of the rotation for the entire 2014 season. Health is the key. With injuries already hitting the rotation, it is critical that Ogando stay healthy.

Ogando has gone back and forth between starting and relieving -- mainly relieving in even years, interestingly enough. And for some, it hasn't answered the question as to which role he's better suited to handle. But the team's need right now is for him to start, and there are plenty of those in the organization who are convinced he is fully equipped to do that.

Can Ogando stay healthy and make 28 or more starts this season?