Friday, May 13, 2011
Secondary stuff key for Alexi Ogando
By Richard Durrett
ARLINGTON, Texas -- From the very start of Friday's game, it was clear Alexi Ogando was going to try to give some of the Angels' hitters different looks. So he didn't waste any time in throwing a changeup to leadoff hitter Erick Aybar.
It was a pitch that kept Aybar and a few other Angels batters off-balance. Ogando threw it 10 times, by far the most he's thrown that pitch this season. But it wasn't the only effective secondary pitch that Ogando empolyed in the game. His slider, a pretty consistent pitch all season, was hitting the corners and changing speeds. Both pitches made his fastball even tougher for hitters to get around on.
That changeup is important because if Ogando can use it on certain hitters, like he did with Aybar on Friday, it will give him three pitches he can throw in various counts, making life even tougher on the batter.
"I don't know that I'm a dominant pitcher yet, but all my pitches are working," Ogando said. "I have to keep working. I'll get better. I know I can do my job out there."
He's sure looked dominant so far this season. He is the only pitcher in the majors to record starts of six or more innings, two runs or less and five or fewer hits this season. He has thrown at least six innings in all seven starts this season, joining C.J. Wilson (seven in 2010) and Kevin Millwood (nine in 2009) as the longest season-opening streaks by rotation members coming out of spring training in the last 10 seasons. And Ogando is comfortable in Arlington. He is 5-0 with a 1.14 ERA in four starts at home this season.
The only thing stopping Ogando is a blister on his right index finger. He had a nail file and was working with it after the fifth inning to do a little maintenance on the fake nail and the blister. Manager Ron Washington had Cody Eppley warming up a little earlier than usual because he was concerned about what the blister might do.
But in the clubhouse after the game, Ogando said he felt fine and that the blister was a little sore but that he felt no pain. His last start was skipped to give the blister more time to heal. The break seemed to energize Ogando early as he hit 95 mph with his fastball in the opening inning and found his command quickly.
Washington said he took Ogando out in the seventh because the Angels were starting to square the ball on him. Cody Eppley closed out the seventh with two outs, Darren Oliver pitched a perfect eighth and Neftali Feliz earned the save.
"He was impressive," Washington said of Ogando. "He had all of his pitches. The off-speed stuff was moving, he elevated when he needed to and was able to go down and away."