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Saturday, June 25, 2011
Alexi Ogando's struggles continue

By Richard Durrett

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Alexi Ogando says he’s not tired. He says he’s simply not putting the ball where he needs to as consistently as he was prior to his last three starts.

Whatever the reason, the right-hander has gone from high All-Star Game consideration to likely being left off the roster. And if the struggles continue in a starting role, the questions about whether he should return to the bullpen when Tommy Hunter or Scott Feldman are ready will start to get asked more frequently.

Right now, the Rangers don’t have any options in that area. It’s too early to consider it anyway. As manager Ron Washington noted: A pitcher gets 30 starts and we’re talking about only three of them.

But his last trio of starts has been in stark contrast to his first 12.

Ogando started the season 7-0 and had a 2.10 ERA after his solid start against Detroit on June 8. Then, he had the second-best ERA in the American League and the attention of the league. But he lasted just 1 2/3 innings in Yankee Stadium, giving up a season-high six runs in his first start that didn’t last at least six innings. He went to Atlanta and needed an IV to combat dehydration after his five-inning, 104-pitch start in the heat.

Saturday was the latest in a string of disappointing outings. He gave up three runs in the first inning and never really recovered, getting into more trouble in the third. Ogando was taken out after the third inning. He allowed six runs on a career-high eight hits. His fastball was up and his velocity down a bit in the first few innings. Ogando did get ramped up to his usual 94-mph range in the third and even found the zone some with his off-speed stuff, but with no reliable fastball he couldn’t pitch around trouble.

So in his last three starts, Ogando is 0-3 with a 9.31 ERA.

Despite throwing more innings this season (89) than his major and minor league innings combined in 2010, Ogando insists he’s not fighting fatigue.

“I feel strong,” Ogando said through a translator. “I don’t feel weak or that I’m losing my strength. I have had three bad outings, but I don’t think that’s the reason. Physically, I think I’m OK.”

Too many fastballs up in the zone led to Mets hits from the start of the game, and Ogando wasn’t able to find his command. It was that ability to move the fastball to either side of the plate and complement it with the off-speed stuff that made him so effective the first two-plus months of the season.

Ogando’s youth was also on display in the third inning. With two on and no outs, Daniel Murphy hit a hard bouncer back to the mound. Ogando gloved it and threw to Adrian Beltre at third.

“You like for him to go to second there and get the double-play,” manager Ron Washington said.

Ogando said he just reacted and made a mistake.

“I had talked to Andres Blanco about throwing it to the shortstop and then I threw it to third,” Ogando said.

Ogando’s catcher sees a pitcher putting too much pressure on himself.

“I think he’s overthrowing out there,” catcher Yorvit Torrealba said. “It’s more about location than anything else. He’ll be just fine. He’s trying too hard. It happened to me offensively, you have to step back and relax.”

That’s what Ogando will try to do in his next start, likely Friday at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington against the Marlins.