ARLINGTON, Texas -- Chuckle if you like. And yes, it's way early in the season. But Alexi Ogando continues to impress and deserves mention among the Cy Young candidates right now. Heck, it's June and the guy still hasn't lost in his first year as a starter.
He's now 7-0 after allowing one run on six hits in 7 2/3 innings against the red-hot Detroit Tigers in Wednesday's 7-3 Rangers win. His 2.10 ERA is second in the American League and opponents are hitting just .187 against him. He did miss a start because of a blister, but he's still right in the mix on innings pitched and has a remarkable 10 quality starts in 12 outings. Oh, and he's pitched at least six innings in every start this season, making him a critical bullpen saver. And he's doing it for a team leading its division.
At the very least, those are All-Star credentials with a month left until selection. Unless something changes, manager Ron Washington may not even have to worry about picking him. The players will likely do it for him.
Ogando actually took another step forward in his development Wednesday. He didn't have good stuff early. His command was wobbly and he needed 25 pitches to get out of a first inning that saw him fall behind, 1-0. But despite some walks and at-bats with runners on base, Ogando kept the Tigers from scoring again on his watch.
"Good pitchers minimize the damage," Washington said.
That's what Ogando did Wednesday. He didn't panic and found his command, ending up with seven strikeouts and some quicker innings. He did it after a solo home run by Don Kelly in the second at-bat of the game.
"I fell behind in the count and I left the pitch right over the plate," Ogando said through a translator. "But I never gave up. I never got my head down. I just kept throwing and kept battling."
He's now the only big league pitcher to win his first seven decisions in 2011 and the first to win that many starts without a loss to begin his career since the Angels' Jered Weaver started 9-0 in 2006. He has pitched at least six innings in every start. Bert Blyleven, in 1976 (17) and 1977 (15), is the only Rangers right-hander to start a season with a longer streak of six-plus inning starts.
Pretty remarkable considering Ogando was the club's primary eight-inning setup man just one week before spring training ended. Then Tommy Hunter's groin issues appeared and Ogando was thrust into the starting role. It's certainly worked out.
When Ogando finished his night, the infielders laughed and poked at him on the mound.
"Everyone was joking around with me. They were saying it was a little shaky at the beginning of the game and then I came back and did my job," Ogando said.
Catcher Yorvit Torrealba has had plenty of chances to see Ogando this season. And he remains impressed.
"He pounded the strike zone, even if he was wild the first couple of innings. He wasn't really able to locate his fastball the way he wanted to," Torrealba said. "Overall, it was the guy we've seen since the start of the season. He kept pounding the strike zone consistently and threw up some zeroes on the scoreboard."
If he keeps it up, he'll not only make the All-Star team, but he'll stay in the discussion for the Cy Young Award.