There's no doubt that Alexi Ogando has been a pleasant surprise to the Texas Rangers starting rotation this season.
In spring training, it was supposed to be Neftali Feliz that was in this position — a reliever turned dynamite starter. Instead, the Rangers elected to keep Feliz as the team's closer and give Ogando a last-minute shot at the rotation after Tommy Hunter pulled up lame just before the season started.
So far, he's never looked back.
Ogando has arguably been the Rangers' most effective pitcher, going 7-2 with a 2.66 ERA.
But he's starting to show some signs of decline, granted a decline for what he's done is still pretty good.
He's up to 88 innings already this season, which is already more than double what he threw last year as a second-half set-up man as a rookie. He had a streak of all of his starts going at least six innings, until his last two when he got drubbed in less than two innings of work by the Yankees and when he had to leave Sunday's start in Atlanta after five innings with dehydration.
As hard as it would be, I'm sticking with what I've said since the beginning, when Tommy Hunter returns from the DL (which will be very soon), Ogando should be moved back to the set-up role to give the back end of the bullpen stability and make it one of the league's best with him and Feliz closing out games.
While they're at it, should the Rangers eventually look at the possibility of moving Derek Holland back to the bullpen? He had a big start for his future on Monday night and improved to 6-2 on the season despite not being lights out, but as Josh Alper points out, that's not necessary for a quality fifth starter.
Hunter was 13-4 last season and unbeaten in the regular season at home. You'd like to think he'd be fine in replacing Ogando as the No. 4 starter. Then the Rangers could go out and acquire a bullpen guy (Heath Bell) OR a starter to replace Holland and move him back to the bullpen where he's had some success as well. One way or another, the Rangers need to balance out their pitching staff a little better than what it is now, which is very starter-heavy.