Ogando proving to be bullpen bargain
Right-hander escapes jam in sixth to help preserve Miley's first win
ST. PETERSBURG -- Bases loaded. Two outs. A one-run lead. That was the situation Alexi Ogando inherited on Tuesday night at Tropicana Field, and the hard-throwing righty never blinked, helping the Red Sox preserve a 1-0 win over the Rays.
Instead, he demonstrated why Boston acquired him as a free agent as a classic buy-low ($1.5 million) transaction.
The healthy Ogando, who is pitching for the Red Sox this season in no way resembles the injury-plagued righty who posted a 6.84 ERA in 27 games with the Rangers last year.
In four pitches, Ogando got starter Wade Miley out of his mess, as Desmond Jennings tapped his 96-mph heater to shortstop to end the sixth inning.
"Such is the life of a reliever," Ogando said through interpreter Adrian Lorenzo. "Sometimes you come into those situations, especially bases loaded, two outs, late in the game. What's most important is to command and execute those pitches and I was able to do that today."
Ogando executed his plan perfectly against Jennings.
"In that situation, I was working away to start the at-bat," Ogando said. "It seemed like a good idea at the time to come in on him. Luckily there were two strikes and I was able to execute the pitch the way I wanted to."
In five of Ogando's seven outings, he hasn't allowed a hit. He's only been scored on in one appearance.
There's a chance Ogando's stuff could keep improving as he fully recovers from his right elbow woes of 2014.
"If there's more velocity, we embrace it," said pitching coach Juan Nieves. "But he has enough to pitch out of the bullpen with that velocity and to change speeds with it."
Ogando is encouraged by where he is so early in the season.
"It's nice that it's up there," Ogando said of his velocity. "It's one of those things that gradually works its way up there. You don't know if it's going to get there or not. Sometimes you have less of it. Luckily through a lot of hard work, I've been able to get to that point. Yeah, I feel pretty good."
The rest of the bullpen also flourished to hold down the fort for Miley. Ogando came back out for the seventh and got two more outs before giving way to lefty Robbie Ross Jr. who retired the only batter he faced. Junichi Tazawa was perfect in the eighth and Koji Uehara got a double-play ball in the ninth to help convert his second save.
"It's huge," said Miley, who earned his first win with Boston. "You absolutely put your confidence in the bullpen. Alexi came in and did a good job. Then Ross after that and Taz and Koji."