There is no question Alexi Ogando can be an effective starting pitcher in the major leagues. That was evidenced by his stellar half-season in 2011 that netted him a spot on the American League All-Star team before he hit a wall in the second half of the season and was eventually moved back to the Rangers' bullpen, where he shined in 2010.
Last season, Ogando was back in the rotation and had much of the same in terms of results — pretty dang good when he was fresh, but a rare candidate to get out of the sixth inning.
Now, the logical role for Ogando in 2014 would be back in the bullpen, adding some serious punch to an already good unit that is without a doubt a team strength. But injuries probably won't allow that as the Rangers are trying to find a way to fill out a rotation that will be without Derek Holland for at least half the season and without Matt Harrison for the beginning of it — assuming no further setbacks.
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Yu Darvish is a concrete No. 1. Harrison is hopeful to be a No. 2, in place of Holland, once he's ready to go. Martin Perez probably figures as a No. 3, though he'd ideally be a No. 4, and then Ogando slots in somewhere after that along with a hopefully healthy Colby Lewis and a veteran looking to rejuvenate his career in Tommy Hanson.
The Rangers might still add another starter with guys like Ervin Santana and Joe Saunders still waiting for a club to sign them, but it's more likely they fill their needs from within, most notably Ogando, who has 48 starts over his career with a 19-12 record and 3.40 ERA, respectable numbers, for sure.
That's the thing about Ogando, when he's in the game, and before he gets tired, he's very good. But he tends to work his pitch count up and then by the time the sixth inning rolls around, he's usually on fumes. MLB.com's T.R. Sullivan pointed out that Ogando's WHIP (walks-hits per inning) is 1.17 over his career — the same as guys like Zack Greinke, Yu Darvish and Felix Hernandez. His opponents' batting average is .233, which is 14th lowest among 157 pitchers who've made at least 40 starts since 2011. He can pitch. The big problem has been his durability.
"If I continue to feel the way I do now, I can handle the workload and throw 200 innings," Ogando told MLB.com. "I've been working hard this winter to do just that."
Ogando piled up 169 innings in 2011, when he started 29 games in his 31 appearances before being moved exclusively to the bullpen for the postseason. In 2013, he threw 104 1/3 innings and hit the disabled list a couple of times.
"I want to be a starter. ... That's my goal and what I am working hard for," Ogando said.