ARLINGTON, Texas -- There was a time, just three years ago, when Alexi Ogando was one of the biggest bullpen weapons in the big leagues. His electric fastball and devastating slider presented manager Ron Washington with all kinds of ways to use him. He could give you more than one inning, if needed. He could come in and pitch to the toughest hitter on the team in a critical situation late. He could even close, when necessary.
Now, it's tough to know what you're going to get when Ogando takes the mound. His fastball has lost a few miles per hour, making his secondary stuff a little less effective. He used to be able to blow balls by hitters. That's not happening much anymore.
On Tuesday, the Rangers had just tied the score at 2-2 on catcher Robinson Chirinos' home run when Ogando came in to pitch against the bottom of the Baltimore order in the eighth. He got an out to start things, but then gave up a single to Delmon Young, hit Jonathan Schoop and then surrendered a double to No. 9 hitter Caleb Joseph, who came in batting .069.
Ogando got ahead of Joseph 0-2, and Chirinos called for a slider. Ogando shook him off and wanted to throw his fastball down and away.
"It came inside," Ogando said through an interpreter. "That's not where I wanted it."
The double gave the Orioles some breathing room and touched off a six-run inning that culminated in Nelson Cruz's homer off Shawn Tolleson, the third reliever used in the inning. It turned a 2-2 game into an eventual 8-3 rout.
"He wasn't executing," Washington said. "He tried to go inside and hit a guy. He tried to away and left a ball up. He wasn't executing."
Ogando was pitching better before Tuesday, giving up one run in 8 2/3 innings over the past eight games to drop his ERA nearly three full runs. But in those outings, he was still issuing walks and having to pitch out of jams. He's been worked a lot early in the season and the club has tried to give him some breaks. But the drop in velocity means Ogando isn't getting away with mistakes with the pitch like he used to and his pitches have flattened a bit.
Ogando has worked on getting his arm angle up a bit to help keep those pitches from flattening, but it's something he's still trying to get with consistency.
"The more he pitches, the better he gets," Washington said. "We've been able to give him the ball and give him multiple innings, and he's been pitching well. [Tuesday] was one of those nights where he didn't get the job done."