Editor's Note: We stick with the starting rotation in our preview series for spring training.
Today's position: No. 4 starter
To understand why Alexi Ogando is slotted as the club's No. 4 starting pitcher in 2013 we have to go back two years. The Rangers had announced their rotation for the 2011 season with less than a week left in spring training in Surprise. Tommy Hunter was in it, with Ogando in the bullpen, where he had pitched so well in 44 games for the Rangers in 2010.
But the same day as the club announced the rotation (March 24), Hunter hurt his groin and the club had to make a quick adjustment to its staff. After discussion, Ogando, who had stretched out as a starter for most of the spring, was moved to the rotation. He ended up starting the season 7-0 with a 2.10 ERA on his way to the All-Star Game. Ogando finished 13-8 with a 3.51 ERA in 31 games (29 starts) in that 2011 season with 126 strikeouts and 43 walks. But Ogando ran into a wall that season, battling fatigue after pitching more innings than he had in his career. In fact, Ogando appeared to run into the wall twice -- once in the second half of the regular season and again in the World Series.
Ogando's 2011 proved he had the stuff to start. And while he wasn't as dominant in the bullpen last season as he was in 2010 and most of the 2011 postseason, he still has enough to start given an entire offseason knowing that's his role.
The biggest question for Ogando is probably centered around whether he can withstand the rigors of an entire season as a starter without hitting the wall again. That's where going through a season as a starter can help Ogando. He knows what to expect and how his body will respond. And he knows what he has to do the rest of this offseason and spring training to be ready.
Ogando is certainly taking the opportunity seriously. He has decided that it would be best for him to concentrate on full spring preparation rather than participate in the World Baseball Classic. That couldn't have been an easy decision. But it means he'll be watched carefully by the Rangers' coaching staff and can progress as needed throughout the spring under the watchful eyes of those in Surprise.
Depending on what happens with that fifth starting spot, Ogando could be the oldest member of the rotation at 29 years old. But after visa issues and a career spent mostly in the bullpen, Ogando still has plenty of growth left. The Rangers hope to see more of that in 2013 as Ogando becomes a full member of the rotation.