Editor's Note: We'll spend the next two weeks taking a look at 10 questions that face the Texas Rangers this offseason as they prepare for the 2013 campaign. We call it our "Texas Ten."
Today's question: Should Alexi Ogando start?
We talk a lot about how one move can cause others. And we saw that last year in regards to the club's starting rotation when Joe Nathan was signed to a two-year deal as closer. As soon as that move was made, Neftali Feliz was told to stretch out as a starter. Because the Rangers had a veteran closer, they wanted to see if Feliz could help them more in the rotation.
They face another decision in regards to one of their current bullpen pieces. Alexi Ogando, though, is a different case. At this point, there are some holes to fill in the bullpen and how those holes are filled may contribute to whether Ogando is a part of the bullpen or the rotation in 2013.
You can make a compelling argument for either in Ogando's case. Let's start with the reasons to consider starting him.
Ogando, 29, pitched out of the bullpen this season and was 2-0 with a 3.27 ERA in 58 appearances. He did make one start and strained his right groin trying to beat out a bunt (he was perfect through three innings in that start in San Francisco). He went on the disabled list for a little more than a month, finishing with 66 innings pitched on the season with 66 strikeouts and 17 walks.
Overall, Ogando wasn't as effective as he was in parts of 2011. That was a breakout season for the converted outfielder. He was 13-8 with a 3.51 ERA and occupied a starting role at first and then became a critical weapon out of the bullpen (just like he was in the 2010 postseason). Ogando was an All-Star in 2011, thanks to his remarkable first half. He was 7-0 with a 2.10 ERA in his first 12 starts of the season and was 9-3 at the break, earning him the All-Star spot. Ogando wasn't even supposed to be in the rotation, if you'll remember. He was forced into that role when Tommy Hunter strained his groin a few days before spring training ended.
Ogando, though, appeared to hit a wall, thanks in large part to the number of innings he accrued. So he was moved to the bullpen down the stretch and into the postseason and was excellent. Knowing he wasn't likely pitching any more than two innings an outing, he let his fastball go and utilized his slider. Hitters weren't able to catch up and he gave up no runs in 2 2/3 innings in the ALDS win over Tampa Bay and one run in 7 2/3 innings in the ALCS victory over Detroit. But Ogando hit another wall in the World Series as the Cardinals got to him late in a few games.
Ogando was in the bullpen this year because that's where the club needed him the most. The Rangers made the decision to move Feliz to the rotation in November, when they signed Nathan. But with injury concerns and uncertainty with some of the bullpen spots, Ogando became an important, versatile piece in the bullpen.
The key to Ogando is his secondary stuff. When that slider is working, he's really tough to hit. And he threw his changeup more near the end of the 2012 season with some success. The ability to change speeds and give hitters different looks is particularly important if Ogando wants to start.
One big reason to move Ogando is that the rotation, outside of Yu Darvish, Matt Harrison and Derek Holland, is up in the air. The club will look at some free-agent options (I'm intrigued with Zack Greinke if he's interested and there's a deal that makes sense), but internal options will get consideration, too. Ogando has started before and had success in that role. I think he's got the stuff to do it and it's clear he wants to.
But if you move Ogando to the rotation, you must also take into account what it does to the bullpen. That area has holes, too. Four of the club's eight free agents are in the bullpen, including Mike Adams and Koji Uehara, two pitchers that had important roles late in games. How the club fills those spots could also determine what happens to Ogando.
I'd still like to see him in the rotation and perhaps, when Neftali Feliz and Colby Lewis return, the team could then look at options and shift Ogando back to the bullpen if needed.
What would you do with Ogando? Do you keep him in the bullpen or move him to the rotation?