SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Add Alexi Ogando's name to the list of candidates for the Rangers' starting rotation. He may very well end up being the answer.The plan was to keep Ogando in the bullpen, but that changed when Tommy Hunter strained his right groin muscle in a start on Thursday against the Reds. Hunter is sidelined for at least six weeks, leaving the Rangers scrambling for a fifth starter. Club officials confirmed on Friday that Ogando is a possibility. "Yes, we'll talk about that," Rangers general manager Jon Daniels said. The Rangers are expected to meet on Saturday to discuss contingency plans. Hunter was supposed to be in the rotation with C.J. Wilson, Colby Lewis, Matt Harrison and Derek Holland. "I'm very disappointed, because Tommy has worked awfully hard," manager Ron Washington said. "We'll have to make an adjustment and see where we go. Believe me, we'll have five starters." Ogando could be one. He was a candidate for the rotation this spring and has been stretched out as a starter. But the Rangers decided to keep him in the bullpen. Hunter's injury changes that, and Ogando has still been one of the more impressive pitchers in camp.
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"He has thrown the ball better every time out," Washington said.He could also slide easily back to the bullpen once Hunter or Brandon Webb are ready. But that could be mid-May or later. The other candidates are left-hander Michael Kirkman and right-hander David Bush. Brett Tomko is being viewed a long reliever, although he is scheduled to pitch five innings in a Minor League game on Saturday. "He has been stretched out the whole time," Washington said, referring to Tomko. "We're going to keep him stretched out. He's a guy we're looking at for the long-man role, and if that changes it's because we decided as a group that it's best for the team." If Ogando goes to the rotation, that would open up another spot in the bullpen behind closer Neftali Feliz, right-hander Darren O'Day and left-handers Arthur Rhodes and Darren Oliver. Mark Lowe had the inside track on one right-handed setup spot but has slipped in camp and is now facing severe competition from Pedro Strop. The Rangers also like Mason Tobin, the Rule 5 Draft pick who is still in camp. That would leave the long-man role. Bush and Tomko are prime candidates for that role if Ogando goes to the rotation. The Rangers need someone who can fill that spot, and they are both stretched out to the point they could pitch four or five innings on the spot. "We're looking for a guy who can, for sure, give us some length," Washington said. But what they need most is a fifth starter and suddenly Ogando has come to the front again.
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.