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Rangers in wait-and-see mode with Ogando

MLB.com @Sullivan_Ranger

ARLINGTON -- The Rangers were hoping that injured right-handed pitcher Alexi Ogando would be ready by now to begin throwing in the Dominican Winter League. That is not going to happen anytime soon.

Ogando has informed the Rangers that he is not yet comfortable pitching in a competitive game. Instead, he will continue to go through his rehab program as he tries to come back from the elbow problems that cut short his 2014 season.

ARLINGTON -- The Rangers were hoping that injured right-handed pitcher Alexi Ogando would be ready by now to begin throwing in the Dominican Winter League. That is not going to happen anytime soon.

Ogando has informed the Rangers that he is not yet comfortable pitching in a competitive game. Instead, he will continue to go through his rehab program as he tries to come back from the elbow problems that cut short his 2014 season.

"We talked about him pitching in winter ball, and that was of interest to us," assistant general manager Thad Levine said Thursday. "But as he got closer to the time where he would have to formally commit, he felt he would be better served just to continue his rehab work."

Ogando remains the biggest pitching mystery on a team that went into the offseason looking for starting pitching. His unknown status lingers less than two weeks before the non-tender deadline of 11 p.m. CT on Dec. 2.

The Rangers' intentions are to keep Ogando. But the decision would have been easier if Ogando had been ready to throw in winter ball. He has been on a throwing program at the Rangers' training complex in the Dominican Republic.

"There are two issues," Levine said. "One is we have to make a certain decision on him in a timely fashion, and the more information we have, the better. On the other side, we have a long history with him and we respect the fact that he doesn't feel he is ready. We'll continue to monitor his progress.

"Our plan has always been to retain [him], but we'll continue to evaluate that as we get closer to the date, as far as the information we have on his rehab."

Ogando, who turned 31 on Oct. 5, has four-plus years of service time and is in his second year of arbitration eligibility. He made $2.65 million last season and will likely be in the same neighborhood again in 2015 if the Rangers do tender him a contract.

Video: HOU@TEX: Ogando retires Altuve to earn the save

Ogando pitched in 27 games for the Rangers last season and was 2-3 with a 6.84 ERA, while opponents hit .314 off him. He did not pitch after June 3, missing the rest of the season with inflammation in his elbow. He also was on the disabled list three times in 2013 with inflammation in his right shoulder and biceps.

But the Rangers remember what Ogando can do when he is healthy. In his first four years in the big leagues, in 2010-13, Ogando was a combined 26-13 with a 3.12 ERA in 48 starts and 135 relief appearances, while opponents hit .225 off him.

In his 48 starts, he is 19-12 with a 3.40 ERA. Over the past five years, there have been 94 pitchers who have made at least 40 starts in the American League. Among that group, Ogando ranks 16th in ERA. His .232 opponents' batting average and 1.17 WHIP are the 10th-lowest mark in that group.

The Rangers would love to acquire that kind of starting pitcher this offseason. Ogando's ERA, WHIP and opposing batting average as a starter are all lower over the past five years than Jon Lester, Max Scherzer and James Shields, the three top pitchers in the current free-agent market.

Ogando's numbers as a reliever are even better, especially in 2010-13, before they were skewed by last season's injury problems. In those four seasons prior to 2014, there were 112 pitchers who made at least 80 relief appearances in the AL. Out of that group, Ogando ranked ninth with a 2.46 ERA, 14th with a 1.07 WHIP and 15th with a .207 opponents' batting average.

"He has been a dominant contributor ever since he came up to the big leagues," Levine said. "He has been very effective in multiple roles, a late-inning presence in the bullpen, and an All-Star as a starter. Depending on his health, he is a well-above-average Major League pitcher. Missing him for much of the past two years has been very challenging for us. He is a very difficult pitcher to replace, as far as quality and versatility."

Having Ogando back at full strength would be huge for the Rangers. The challenge is keeping him healthy after five years of commuting between the bullpen and the rotation. The bullpen appears to be the safer bet at this point, but nothing will be decided until after the Dec. 2 non-tender deadline and after Ogando feels he is strong enough to pitch competitively again.

"I think we view him as a winning piece on a 12-man staff," Levine said. "Right now, we're less focused on his role and more on his health. He can pitch effectively in either role."

T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger.

Texas Rangers, Alexi Ogando