So talented is Alexi Ogando that the Texas Rangers’ front office and coaching staff have been torn the past few seasons over what to do with the hard-throwing right-hander.
He was a promising bullpen arm during his debut season of 2010 and a dominant reliever in the 2011 postseason — after being selected to the All-Star Game as a starter.
He was good again in the bullpen in 2012, but good again as a starter in 2013 despite three trips to the disabled list.
Thanks for the memories.
But the ghost of that Ogando is now haunting the Rangers, who have continued to show faith in him this season even though he hasn’t approached the same level of his past effectiveness.
Ogando allowed the first three runs in a six-run eighth inning that lifted Baltimore from a tied game to an 8-3 victory to open a three-game series at Globe Life Park.
Joe Saunders is no longer the one Rangers pitcher who is pushing the needle on the Panic Meter into chain-smoking territory.
Ogando has taken that spot after another outing that cost the Rangers a chance to win a ballgame.
“He just wasn’t executing,” manager Ron Washington said. “The more he pitches, the better he gets. We’ve been able to give him the ball and give him multiple innings, and he’s been pitching well. Tonight was just one of those nights he didn’t get the job done.”
Some numbers support Washington’s claim that Ogando, who insists that he is healthy, has been doing well of late. He entered Tuesday having allowed only one run in his past 8 2/3 innings, but he also had allowed at least one hit in five straight games, with walks in three straight.
Ogando’s ERA after 25 innings this season is a disheartening 6.84, more than twice his career ERA. He has lost three times, been inconsistent at best many other times and was taken out of more high-leverage situations after a heavy workload and poor results in April.
“We never lost confidence in Ogando,” Washington said. “When we backed off him, we backed off him because of the workload he was taking on. We tried to ease that a little bit. Ogando’s been throwing the ball well.”
The good news is that Tanner Scheppers should come off the disabled list soon and thereafter leap-frog Ogando in the bullpen pecking order.
Ideally, Scheppers will be a shutdown reliever like he was in 2013 and will handle situations like the one Ogando was dropped into Tuesday in a 2-2 game in the eighth inning.
Ogando retired J.J. Hardy to start the frame, but the Delmon Young’s slow roller eluded Elvis Andrus’ bare hand for a one-out single. Ogando then plunked Jonathan Schoop, and Caleb Joseph doubled to right-center to give the Orioles a 3-2 lead.
That was it for Ogando, who failed to retire any of the bottom three hitters in the Orioles’ lineup.
“I wasn’t consistent at all,” Ogando said. “I couldn’t find the strike zone, and my pitches were going everywhere.”
Neal Cotts allowed two more runs on a Nick Markakis single. Manny Machado followed with a chopper that could have been an inning-ending double play until Cotts deflected it into no-man’s land.
Nelson Cruz was next after a pitching change, and he unloaded a 404-foot liner into the left-field seats for his 21st homer and an 8-2 lead.
“It was kind of ugly at the end,” Cotts said.
Adrian Beltre and Robinson Chirinos homered for the Rangers, who stayed in the game despite seeing Saunders allow 10 hits in six-plus innings of his second start since coming off the disabled list.
Saunders didn’t do anything spectacular, though magically he allowed only two runs. He got some help when Schoop bounced into an inning-ending double play with runners at first and second in the sixth, and when Jason Frasor stranded two inherited runners in the seventh.
But, yet again, Ogando couldn’t do his job in the eighth.
Scheppers can’t return to the Rangers’ bullpen soon enough.