SURPRISE, Ariz. -- The tea leaves have been saying since Jan. 18 that right-hander Alexi Ogando will be a vital member of the Texas Rangers' bullpen for the 2012 season.
Jan. 18 was the day the Rangers announced that they had signed right-hander Yu Darvish, thus filling out their starting rotation and almost certainly sending Ogando to the bullpen.
He was a member of the rotation last year, thanks to an injury, and transitioned out of the bullpen to a spot on the American League All-Star team as a starting pitcher.
By the time the playoffs rolled around, though, Ogando's value was as a reliever. Even though he was stretched out again this spring in case of an injury to a starter, he has been destined for the bullpen for the past two months.
It could become official as soon as today, but Ogando already knows his role.
"I wasn't anticipating it before, but now that I've come to camp, I know what they're asking me to do," Ogando said Thursday, after throwing six innings in a minor league game.
"I'm a team player. Whatever the team asks me to do, I'm ready to go."
He will be asked to pitch multiple relief innings and serve as a bridge from the middle of the game to either Mike Adams in the eighth inning or closer Joe Nathan in the ninth.
Ogando prefers to start, but last year the Rangers saw a hard-throwing right-hander who could stifle opposing bats during Texas' run to the World Series.
Games could be shortened to six innings, or even five, with Ogando in the bullpen.
Starters are rarely asked to just get through five innings, and that won't change with the 2012 Ranger, simply because of Ogando's ability to go multiple innings.
But manager Ron Washington will have that option at his disposal at least twice per week.
"He will be the bridge, the multi-inning guy who can get us to the back end of the bullpen," Washington said. "We've got seven quality starters, and we only can take five in the rotation.
"Ogando happens to be one of them that's very versatile, and if you had to choose, you choose the versatility. That's it in a nutshell."
The Rangers could announce their rotation plans as early as today. They will wait to see if Neftali Feliz comes out of his bullpen session without any fresh tightness in his right shoulder.
If so, Colby Lewis will likely be named the Opening Day starter, with Derek Holland, Matt Harrison, Darvish and Feliz to follow. That has been the order since the start of spring training, and the Rangers haven't seemed inclined to use the right-handed Darvish to split left-handers Holland and Harrison.
Scott Feldman, who has also been stretched out this spring as a starter, would become the long man in the bullpen.
Lewis said that he was told before spring training to prepare to start April 6 against the White Sox.
"It doesn't matter if you're No. 1 or No. 5," Lewis said. "You've got to be ready regardless."
Ogando says that he is also ready for anything, though he knows he is headed to the bullpen.
"I've already talked to Ogando about there is a possibility he will go to the bullpen," Washington said. "He can do both roles very well. He's just one of those who has a rubbery arm, and he can make whatever adjustment he has to make. That doesn't come along often."
Jeff Wilson, 817-390-7760