DETROIT, MI - APRIL 11: Alexi Ogando #41 of the Texas Rangers throws a pitch while playing the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park on April 11, 2011 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Alexi Ogando
Since July 6, Alexi Ogando has been living the good life.
He's a star major league pitcher, and he's been able to relax and watch as his team has won eight straight games since that day when Ogando made his last start against Baltimore, when he picked up his ninth win of the season shortly before being named an All-Star.
This season, he's 9-3 with a 2.92 ERA, 78 strikeouts and 23 walks in 104 2/3 innings pitched, which is nearly three times as many innings as he's ever pitched in a season in his career.
Last year, he threw 41 2/3 as the Rangers' set-up man, which was then a career high.
There were concerns of Ogando hitting a wall when he had a rough stretch of three straight losses in June, but he came back with two more strong starts leading up to the all-star break.
At least one of his teammates never had that concern.
C.J. Wilson knows what it takes to transition from the bullpen to the starting rotation. Since becoming a starter last season, Wilson has compiled a 25-11 record in a season and a half with an ERA around 3.00 and has established himself this season as the Rangers' ace.
Wilson, who's known around baseball as an insanely hard worker, believes Ogando has a similar quality.
"It's all related to the type of conditioning you do," Wilson said of the transition. "Alexi's in great shape obviously, he's a physical specimen. He's like 4 percent body fat. The biggest thing for him is to keep his cardio enudrance high to recover between starts and have stamina to go out and throw 105 to 120 pitches -- whatever he needs to do to get through 7 innings. He's been great."
It also helps to have good stuff, and Ogando most definitely has that.
"He's got a phenomanomenl fastball," Wilson said. "If he throws 97 to 98 on his good days and 94 to 95 on his bad days that's still faster than most everyone else throws. He's got that advantage, and he is using his off-speed stuff more effectively which is why his strikeouts have been going up the last couple of starts."
Wilson also attributed Ogando's success in becoming a starter to what the 27-year-old Dominican has gone through to get to where he is now, most notably a human trafficking scandal in 2005, which resulted in him being barred from receiving a work visa for five years and limited him to Dominican summer leagues, winter ball and international tournaments.
Ogando immediately admitted guilt after officials grew suspicious when an inordinate amount of minor league ballplayers from the Dominican were marrying women that were previously denied visas so they could gain access to the United States.
That scandal robbed Ogando of five years of his MLB career, but Wilson said it has probably helped him succeed.
"The biggest thing about him is he's gone through so much to be where he his now he doesn't feel the apprehension that other pitchers feel in the same situations," Wilson said. "He's been through stuff in real life that's more intense than giving up a run. His adversity index is a little bit higher. He's hungry so I'm really proud of him.
"He's not 22. He has a little more life experience and it means a little more to him probably. His level of desire is so high that there's no way he can fail."
And after 12 days off, Ogando gets his chance to continue his unlikely season tonight.