The Risk of Ogando

The most overlooked move of the 2011 Rangers’ season happened in late March.
In Surprise, Arizona, Mark Lowe showed he was incapable of locking down a closer’s role, that was his for the taking. The entire bullpen was in shambles all spring.

Neftali Feliz and Alexi Ogando were both being stretched out for the rotation, further showing the weaknesses of the bullpen. Feliz was showing some promise on his abbreviated move to the rotation. However given the lack of competence in the Rangers bullpen, the Rangers were forced to remove Feliz from the rotation.

Then, Tommy Hunter pulled a groin muscle, and was determined to be out several weeks. So with Feliz already committed to the bullpen, the Rangers were forced to slot Alexi Ogando into the rotation.

Ogando was definitely a second option to Feliz for the rotation. Ogando was seen as an emergency of sorts, a filler till Hunter got healthy, or maybe Dave Bush or Brett Tomko would step up. Ogando seemed to be the last option the Rangers wanted in the rotation.

Jon Daniels and Co. came up smelling like roses. Ogando befuddled hitters with his two pitches and earned himself an invite to the Mid-Summer Classic. Few teams could be so lucky to have their emergency, 5th starter go to the All-Star game.

Ogando wore down in the second half and some hitters caught on to his limited pitch repertoire. When the calendar flipped to October, Ogando was completely gassed and very ineffective for the playoffs.

Now the calendar has turned to 2012, but the story remains the same. Feliz has been given a rotation spot and Ogando is on the outside waiting for Tommy Hunter to get injured again. Problem is, Hunter isn’t good enough for the Rangers’ 25-man roster anymore, and he’s also a Baltimore Oriole.

The Rangers have Yu Darvish, Derek Holland, Colby Lewis and Neftali Feliz set for the rotation. Matt Harrison, Alexi Ogando and Scott Feldman are left with undefined roles at the moment.

In light of the crowded rotation, the theme has been for either or both of Harrison and Ogando to move to the bullpen. Harrison was quietly the Rangers best pitcher, start to finish last year. And Ogando was the best starter of the first half.

Ogando’s delivery is far from fluid. His arm movement alludes that he would be better served in ‘short bursts’ in the bullpen. Ogando would be a true weapon in the bullpen.

I just think this is far from a final decision, with Ogando. The Rangers have said nothing of Ogando’s role for 2012. He is currently preparing to be a starter, but if Joe Nathan throws out his back, Ogando could easily transition back into the bullpen.

Also its been rumored that Matt Harrison or Colby Lewis could be on the trading block. Either way, the Rangers were very fortunate for the starting rotation to be so healthy all year in 2011. Having extra legitimate SP’s lying around is never a bad idea.

Given the success and affinity the Rangers have for transforming relievers into starters (CJ Wilson, Alexi Ogando, Neftali Feliz) I say it’s not a slam dunk, that Ogando never starts a game again.

The Rangers didn’t wait six years for Ogando to be freed from visa constraints to see him in ’short bursts’. I’d imagine they want to get as much as they possibly can out of Ogando, before he hits free agency at a older than normal age.

This is a front office that takes risks, like trading their top pitching prospect for a former drug addict.

This is a front office gives $15 million to a Cuban outfielder who wasn’t even in the starting line-up in the World Baseball Classic (Leonys Martin was benched in favor of Yeonis Cespedes).

This is a front office that routinely drafts undervalued athletes, who have the potential to be All-Stars. They don’t draft players who have limited ceilings.

This is a front office that lets an average reliever, with his only starting experience behind a Tommy John surgery, become an All-Star and walk away for $77.5 million.

This is a front office that signs an 16 year old out of Curacao as a SS, when every other team wanted him on the mound.

This is a front office that sticks with a manger who fails a drug test.

This is a front office that cans their hitting coach, with no worries, and doesn’t miss a beat.

This is a front office that traded away their top hitting prospect, in their division, for a SP that was only guaranteed to be here for three months.

This is a front office that isn’t scared to tell their all-time hit-king to move positions, multiple times.

This doesn’t seem to be a front office that will be fearful of irregular arm mechanics, particularly if they can get front-line talent for their risk. That’s essentially the Ranger’s modus operandi: “Take whatever risk necessary to get the best talent.”

The takeaways:

The Rangers like to take risks.

The Rangers are successful risk-takers.

Don’t be surprised if Alexi Ogando is in the rotation, or the All-Star Game again.

Dan is a ShutDown Inning staff writer. You can email him at
Dan Allsup

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