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Ogando declares himself ready after third rehab start

Righty throws seven innings of two-run ball, pounding strike zone at Triple-A

ROUND ROCK, Texas -- Alexi Ogando thinks he's ready to return to the Rangers after his best rehab start Thursday with Triple-A Round Rock. The right-hander allowed two runs on three hits in seven innings. He threw just 80 pitches, 15 below his limit, 49 of which were strikes.

"I feel more comfortable, more powerful," Ogando said. "I'm ready to go."

Ogando allowed his only runs in the sixth, when Cubs farmhand Donnie Murphy took a 79-mph slider deep for a two-run homer. Ogando has allowed a home run in each of his three rehab starts, including two in his first outing.

"I think he was looking for it," Ogando said.

After the home run, Ogando retired the final five hitters on 12 pitches to end his outing. He went back to his fastball, hitting 94 mph on both pitches he threw to the final batter in the seventh.

Ogando could be activated to pitch for the Rangers on Tuesday against the Yankees. He'll be with the Rangers when they open the second half Friday as he awaits a decision on a possible activation. If the club doesn't think he pitched well enough, Justin Grimm will get the ball against New York.

Ogando's outing started with 4 1/3 perfect innings, with his fastball topping at 95 mph in the first. He needed just nine fastballs to get through the second. Ogando picked up one of two strikeouts in the second on a 91-mph fastball for a called third strike. He consistently attacked hitters low and away.

"That's his bread and butter, that down and away glove-side fastball," Triple-A Round Rock pitching coach Brad Holman said. "He was better with that tonight than he was with any other of his outings."

Ogando's perfect game was broken up in the fifth on a double to left field. Ogando later walked his only batter on five pitches to put two on with two out, but he forced the next batter to pop up to second to end the threat.

"Very good," Ogando described his outing. "I worked my fastball and I threw strikes."

It's the fewest runs Ogando has allowed in three rehab starts since he went on the disabled list for the second time this season with right shoulder inflammation on June 9. He allowed a combined seven earned runs on nine hits in six innings in his previous two starts with the Minor League affiliate.

"I don't know what they're particularly looking for, but as far as the progress he's made since he's been here, there's been a definite improvement from outing to outing," Holman said.

Ogando's return would bolster the Rangers' starting rotation, hampered by injuries. The club has been active in talks with the Cubs about acquiring right-handed pitcher Matt Garza. Top prospect Mike Olt, a possible trade piece for the Rangers, went 0-for-3 with a walk, three strikeouts and an error at third base behind Ogando.

The Rangers are also seeking a right-handed bat as the Trade Deadline approaches. Manny Ramirez went 1-for-4 with a strikeout, hitting cleanup. He is hitting .294 in nine games at Round Rock.

Master Tesfatsion is an associate reporter for
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