Maybe Joseph Ortiz should've stuck with his original name this season. Since letting people know he wants to go by Joseph instead of Joe, the stocky lefty has struggled in his relief role with the Texas Rangers and that came to a head on Wednesday when he was optioned to Triple-A Round Rock to make room for the return of starting pitcher Alexi Ogando from the disabled list.
In his first seven outing with the Rangers, the 22-year-old looked to be this year's version of Robbie Ross, who exploded on to the scene last season as a rookie who was a last-minute Opening Day roster selection. Over that time, Ortiz worked 11 2/3 innings and allowed no homers and just one run — in his first outing — with 10 strikeouts and two walks, good for an ERA of 0.77.
Since then, things have fallen off dramatically for Ortiz, who since April 23 has struggled to an 8.59 ERA, giving up 14 earned runs in 14 2/3 innings with seven Ks and five walks. In that time, he's given up five long balls, including three on Tuesday night in the Rangers' blowout loss to Boston.
Ortiz told The Dallas Morning News that his confidence has waned as his playing time has decreased, which of course is due to manager Ron Washington's diminished confidence in his rookie lefty.
“I was more aggressive early in the season,” Ortiz said. “I was able to pitch every day or almost every other day and that helped me stay aggressive. I have so many days off right now that when I pitch I worry that I need to pitch well. I need to go down [to Round Rock] and work on the mental side.”
The Rangers hope he can get that part of his game straightened out and get back to being a valuable piece of a bullpen that has a lot of question marks aside from Joe Nathan, Tanner Scheppers and Ross.