Alexi Ogando rewards Ron Washington's faith

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Before Wednesday's game against the Chicago Cubs, manager Ron Washington said his primary hope when Alexi Ogando made his third spring start later that day, was to show continued improvement from his first two outings.

The Texas Rangers' No. 4 starter obliged and had by far his most effective performance of the 2013 Cactus League season.

"I always felt good about him," Washington said of Ogando. "It's spring training. You want to get better each time you go out there and he has done that."

Ogando finished his three innings with one run allowed, two hits and two walks with six strikeouts. After a 1-2-3 inning in the fifth, Ogando struck out three consecutive batters with two runners on in the sixth, but it was his pitching in the seventh where he finally looked like his dominant self.

The 29-year old opened the seventh inning by giving up a walk and a single. He then threw an errant pickoff attempt to second base, allowing both runners to advance. Chicago had runners on second and third with no one out and seemed primed for a big inning. Ogando thought otherwise.

First, he got the next batter to pop up to shallow center field, which kept the runner at third from scoring. He then struck out the next two batters to escape the scoring threat unharmed.

"My slider was very good today," Ogando said. "It's my second pitch after my fastball and sometimes when it isn't working, I use my slider more. It was much better today."

During his two previous spring appearances, Ogando struggled. In his spring debut on Feb. 22, the right-hander struggled with command and gave up three earned runs, two hits and two walks in 1 1/3 innings. He showed slight improvement in his second appearance on Feb. 27, as the two runs he gave up were unearned, but Ogando did give up three hits and walked a pair.

"I didn't really concern myself with that," Ogando said of his rough start. "It's part of the process. You don't have good outings all the time, so it's good to get the bad ones out of the way early. That's why you're working hard every day."

On Wednesday, Ogando most resembled the pitcher who went 13-8, with a 3.51 ERA in 29 starts two years ago. His numbers went up toward the end of the season as he tired. Overall, his season was a success, which is why Washington wants to convert him back to a starter despite pitching well out of the bullpen in 2010 and 2012.

"He certainly has to show us he can give us more innings than he gave us and he'll certainly get the opportunity to do that," Washington said.

Ogando will fill the No. 4 slot, with Yu Darvish, Matt Harrison and Derek Holland occupying the first three starting spots.