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01/17/12 3:01 PM EST
If Darvish signs, Ogando willing to relieve
By T.R. Sullivan / MLB.com
ARLINGTON -- The Rangers expect that they will be able to announce sometime on Wednesday that they have signed Japanese pitcher Yu Darvish. They are not expected to announce who will lose his spot in the rotation. They will probably wait until Spring Training before moving Alexi Ogando back to the bullpen.
"My wish is to stay as a starter," Ogando said Tuesday. "But if it happens I have to go to the bullpen, I'll be OK with that. I will do what it takes to help the team. I will be up for it."
The Rangers have not announced anything yet. They have until 4 p.m. CT on Wednesday to reach an agreement with Darvish. If they don't, Darvish will pitch in Japan again this season, and the Rangers will likely turn their attention to free-agent first baseman Prince Fielder.
The deadline is fast approaching, but Rangers officials have said all weekend that they expect to sign Darvish by Wednesday.
"Tomorrow is the day," manager Ron Washington said at Tuesday's mini-camp for pitchers. "Who knows, maybe something will come down tonight. But if we are able to bring him into the fold, we can start to move forward."
Darvish, who was 18-6 with a 1.44 ERA in 28 games for the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters last season, would join a rotation that already includes Ogando, Colby Lewis, Matt Harrison and Derek Holland. The Rangers are also going full-speed ahead with moving closer Neftali Feliz into the rotation.
That would give the Rangers six starters for a five-man rotation. Injuries could determine much, and a trade is always a possibility. But if everybody stays healthy, Ogando is the likely candidate to go to the bullpen.
"That decision is not going to be made now," Washington said. "We're going to go into Spring Training and continue to let the guys who are starters have that opportunity. If at some point in Spring Training we have to make an adjustment, we'll make an adjustment."
The Rangers have certainly discussed the situation among themselves.
"We know what we want to do, we're just not ready to expose it yet," Washington said.
Ogando has been successful as both a starter and a reliever. He was 4-1 with a 1.30 ERA in 44 relief appearances as a rookie for the Rangers in 2010. He went into the rotation last season when Tommy Hunter went down with an injury at the end of Spring Training and initially flourished in the role.
He was 9-3 with a 2.92 ERA in 17 starts in the first half and ended up in the All-Star Game. He went 4-5 with a 4.48 ERA in the second half and was moved to the bullpen during the playoffs.
Keeping him there would give the Rangers one more power arm as a right-handed setup reliever to go with Mark Lowe, Mike Adams and Koji Uehara. The Rangers signed Joe Nathan to be their closer, allowing Feliz to move to the rotation.
"I'm going to continue to work as a starter, but if they move me to the bullpen, I won't have a problem with that," Ogando said. "It's easier to go to the bullpen from being a starter."
Harrison would be the other option, but club officials indicated that's not likely. Last year, left-handed hitters batted .275 off him as opposed to .249 against right-handers. That suggests he's better suited for the rotation than a spot in the bullpen, where his primary responsibility is getting left-handed hitters out.
"We have plenty of time to make decisions," Washington said.
The Rangers still have to get Darvish done. The Rangers submitted a bid of $51.7 million to win negotiating rights and have a 30-day window to get a deal done. That expires at 4 p.m. Wednesday. If the deal doesn't get done, the Rangers don't pay the $51.7 million posting fee, and Darvish remains with the Nippon Ham Fighters.
The Rangers expect to get it done. Darvish visited Arlington earlier this month and has already passed his physical.
"He is a polished kid who can pound the strike zone and command the breaking ball," Washington said. "He's got a great body and a great work ethic. If we get him on the dotted line, he will fit right in."
Rangers pitching coach Mike Maddux met with Darvish earlier this month. Maddux said he hasn't done much research on him, but that will change if Darvish gets done.
"It will be nice to have him," Maddux said. "I'm sure a lot of teams feel that way. We'll see if tomorrow is Christmas or not."