Questions surround Alexi Ogando and his ability to hold up for a full season after landing on the disabled list three times last season.
Ogando is trying to change that and spent the off-season going through workouts to strengthen his shoulders. He reported to camp with only seven percent body fat and believes he is ready to go through the full starting workload this season.
“From year to year, you don’t know what’s going to happen,” Ogando said. “Only God can tell you what’s going to happen, but I came out and worked hard so I don’t get into those [injury] situations again. I feel really good this year.”
Ogando struggled in his Cactus League debut Friday, allowing two runs on four hits over two innings to the Royals. He threw a first-pitch strike to only two of the 10 batters he faced and knows his fastball command wasn’t great.
But it was February and too early for Ogando or anyone within the organization to fret over it.
“You’ve got to throw first-pitch strikes,” Ogando said after his 34-pitch outing. “You have to attack and be aggressive. I got behind in the counts to a lot of the hitters I faced. It was my first outing and I’m healthy. That’s the most important thing.”
It certainly is for Ogando.
Last year he missed three weeks early in the season with right biceps tendinitis, more than a month in the middle with right shoulder inflammation, and another three weeks later with more right shoulder inflammation.
Ogando had been on the DL only once in his first three seasons with the Rangers and is determined to show that last year was a fluke.
“He’s not taking anything for granted,” pitching coach Mike Maddux said. “He gives you a great effort. You can see he has come in here with an edge.”
Manager Ron Washington has seen Ogando’s edge, too, and said the role has as much to do with it as anything else.
The Rangers have known for a long time the type of talent Ogando possesses.
They acquired him in the minor-league phase of the Rule 5 draft in 2005 with intentions of turning the then-outfielder into a pitcher, and stuck with him through visa issues that kept him out of the United States for four years.
Once cleared of his visa issues, Ogando quickly established himself as a big-league pitcher. But the Rangers had him on an endless shuttle between the bullpen and rotation. He initially proved himself to be a dominant reliever in 2012, posting a 1.30 ERA over 44 appearances.
Then the Rangers moved Ogando into the rotation and he made the American League All-Star team in 2011. However, the team felt he would be more valuable in a relief role down the stretch.
Ogando stayed in the relief role in 2012 with Washington saying that Ogando is a bigger “weapon” out of the bullpen. Last year, he broke camp as a starter and bounced between roles.
The role is no longer in question for a team that is desperate for starters with Derek Holland missing at least the first half of the season, Matt Harrison returning from three surgeries and Colby Lewis trying to make do after a hip operation. Ogando is penciled in as a starter, along with Yu Darvish and Martin Perez.
“Starters have totally different routines from closers,” Washington said. “Now he understands what he has to do daily to make sure that every fifth day he can last. If he can last every fifth day and take the ball and don’t get hurt, he can pile up the innings that it takes to be a starter.
“He’s committed to doing it. Let’s see where it goes.”