Maybe Alexi Ogando won't be leaving the rotation, after all.
While it appeared all but certain the struggling Ogando would be heading to the bullpen for the final 10 days of the season, he rallied from a wobbly second inning Thursday to pitch six scoreless in the Rangers' 7-4 win over Cleveland that completed a three-game sweep. It also extended the Rangers' lead over the idle Angels to 3 1/2 games.
Ogando was skipped once in the rotation earlier this month, then made it through only five innings against Oakland in his last out. As pitches mounted Thursday in a self-created, second-inning jam that loaded the bases, the Rangers got Scott Feldman up and warming in the bullpen in what was then a scoreless tie.
That seemed to get the message through. Ogando struck out the final two hitters of the second, then pitched four more perfect innings to raise his record to 13-8 through 166 innings. Ogando, who pitched only 78 1/3 innings last year between the minors, majors and the postseason, shook off a 39-pitch second inning and needed just 40 pitches over his last four innings.
"He needed to have it for himself," manager Ron Washington said of the effective performance. "I think he's feeling pretty good about himself right now."
After a 7-0 start to the season, Ogando seemed to be fading down the stretch, and the Rangers have been considering moving him to the bullpen if they make the playoffs. His Thursday outing may stifle those plans. The Rangers must choose two pitchers from Ogando and lefties Derek Holland and Matt Harrison to join C.J. Wilson and Colby Lewis in a four-man playoff rotation.
Ogando had experience last year as the Rangers' seventh-inning pitcher, and the possibility exists that Washington could turn to Ogando for a similar role this year. But after Thursday, it appears Ogando will remain in the rotation.
At least for now.
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