Alexi Ogando recorded his fourth career save and first save since 2012 in Sunday afternoon's 1-0 win over the Houston Astros. And while it may fall short of a 'closer controversy,' Rangers manager Ron Washington has been impressed by Ogando's recent performance.
'He's got his fastball back downhill, hitting his spots. He's making his slider look so much better. When he can throw his fastball where he wants to, he can be a tough guy. And in his last three outings, that's what he's been,' Wash said.
He said that if Monday's game ends in a save situation, it will be Soria that gets the ball, but that we likely haven't seen the last of Ogando in the ninth inning.
'Ogando is going to get some opportunities to close some ballgames,' Washington said.
The 6-foot-4 Dominican righty was perfect in two innings during the Houston series, throwing a hitless tenth inning Friday and a hitless ninth on Sunday, needing just 26 total pitches over the two outings. Washington said his effectiveness is due in part to Ogando's development of a changeup in his time as a starter for Texas.
'He's got another pitch. It's not just hard stuff anymore,' he said. 'He can throw a changeup at you now and throw it in the strike zone.'
Soria has a 7.20 ERA in five games in 2014. He surrendered three earned runs on April 8 in Boston and took the loss on April 12 against Houston. Wash said Soria earned the closer role in the spring because of his past experience closing ballgames. And while he has had some struggles in the young 2014 season, Soria hasn't lost the job. The decision to have Ogando close was solely to give Soria a rest after using him on back-to-back days.
'I'm not going to sit here, with Soria as my closer, and anoint someone else,' Washington said.
The Ranger manager added that Ogando's 'stuff' is impressive, but the closer role isn't just about having good pitches.
'Closing down ballgames isn't just about giving it somebody because they've got 'stuff,'' Wash said. 'You've got to have some nerves. You've got to be able to do stuff when things aren't just falling into place. That's a true closer.'
He noted that Neftali Feliz has been solid in Round Rock, and hasn't given up anything in his time in the minors. One night his velocity is up and the next it's down, he said, but that's the nature of his recovery.
'It doesn't always have to be 97 mph, as long as it's steady. If he's steady, he'll be alright too,' Washington said.
Daniel McCutchen was designated for assignment to make room for Colby Lewis, whose contract was purchased from Triple-A Round Rock so he could start for the Rangers Monday. The Rangers have 10 days to trade, release, or outright McCutchen to the minor leagues, according to the Rangers.
McCutchen made just one appearance with Texas and allowed three runs against Tampa Bay. The Rangers acquired Hector Noesi over the weekend, and he is likely to be the long relief man out of the 'pen. McCutchen has been on the roster as a long reliever in his two stints with the Big League club.
Joe Saunders will throw a bullpen Monday as part of his rehab from a bruised ankle suffered April 4. Washington said the bullpen session will be crucial in deciding what the next step is for the 32-year-old lefty.
'If he gets through his bullpen, we'll have him do some [pitcher fielding practice], get him moving around, and go from there,' he said.