SURPRISE, Ariz. -- The Rangers are looking for a long reliever for their bullpen. Alexi Ogando could win the job by default because he isn't making much of a case for staying in the rotation.
Ogando struggled for the second straight outing, giving up five runs over three innings in a 6-4 loss to the Cubs at Surprise Stadium on Tuesday night. Ogando, who threw 78 pitches, has now allowed 11 runs over 6 1/3 innings in his last two starts.
Ogando also made a bizarre exit from the game. After giving up five runs and throwing 35 pitches in the third inning, Ogando went to the mound and began warming up for the fourth. But he threw just a few warmup pitches before trainer Kevin Harmon, bullpen coach Andy Hawkins and manager Ron Washington went to the mound.
After a major summit that involved several infielders, Ogando was pulled from the game. Ogando said there was some concern he might be developing a blister but that was not the case.
"They saw me rubbing my fingers, which I sometimes do," Ogando said. "They thought something was wrong and they went to check on it. It's fine. I don't have a blister. But they felt I had enough … so they pulled me out."
Washington, who had Neftali Feliz warming up in the bullpen, said Ogando shouldn't have been on the mound for the fourth inning anyway after having thrown 78 pitches.
"We messed up and forgot to tell him he wasn't supposed to go back out there," Washington said. "Blame it on me."
The blame might have been on Ogando, who bolted out of the dugout after the last out in the bottom of the third. He might not have waited for the Rangers to tell him he was done.
"I wanted to keep pitching," Ogando said.
Ogando may not have a blister but he no longer has a tight grip on the third spot in the rotation. Washington said earlier this week he wanted to see Ogando earn his spot in the rotation. Blister or no blister, Ogando's performance on Tuesday did not seem to fit the description of "earning" a spot.
"I felt my breaking stuff was where I wanted it to be," Ogando said. "But my fastball was cutting out of the zone. My fastball location wasn't there."
The Rangers are still considering all their options for the final three spots in the rotation, which include right-handers Colby Lewis, Tanner Scheppers and Tommy Hanson, and left-handers Joe Saunders and Robbie Ross. Ogando is still a leading candidate for the rotation but no longer a lock.
"He's got to start getting outs," Washington said. "Up until the last two, he has been throwing the ball well."
Ogando loaded the bases with one out in the first on two walks and a single but escaped by striking out Javier Baez and retiring Rafael Lopez on a pop to center. Ogando then retired the side in order in the second as well as the first two in the third. Then third baseman Kevin Kouzmanoff fumbled a ground ball with a wicked spin off the bat of Ryan Kalish.
The error prolonged the inning and Ogando couldn't put a stop to it. Instead, Mike Olt hit a two-run home run to center and Javier Baez made it back-to-back blasts with one over the right-field wall. After Lopez reached on a high pop that fell for a single to left, Darnell McDonald ripped a double off the center-field wall and Brett Jackson ripped a triple down the right-field line to make it 5-0.
"I felt like after that error, I lost my focus," Ogando said. "That sometimes happens and I let things get away from me."
"I wish he would have gotten some outs after Kouzmanoff made that mistake," Washington said. "All of a sudden he got the ball up and they didn't miss it."
Ogando was 7-4 with a 3.11 ERA in 18 starts and five relief appearances last season but was also on the disabled list three times with shoulder and biceps inflammation. His health is always a concern and was again on Tuesday night. But right now the results are the biggest concern.
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields, and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less