Ohlendorf saving bullpen as 'blowout' closer

Veteran right-hander has 1.29 ERA in 8 games this month

Ohlendorf saving bullpen as 'blowout' closer

OAKLAND -- The Rangers are finally getting from pitcher Ross Ohlendorf what they hoped for in Spring Training. In doing so, the veteran right-hander has carved out his own niche in the bullpen.

Ohlendorf has morphed into a combination of middle reliever and "blowout" closer. When the Rangers need a game finished and it is not a save situation, they call on Ohlendorf and hold off using closer Shawn Tolleson.

Ohlendorf has done that three times since being called up from Triple-A at the beginning of September, including Wednesday night in a 10-3 win over the Athletics.

"It's what we talked about in Spring Training, having a veteran guy that has stuff, at times a swing-and-miss breaking ball, and velocity and angle on his fastball," manager Jeff Banister said. "He can pitch in a swing role."

The Rangers led 7-3 going into the top of the ninth inning Wednesday. As they got ready to hit, Banister had both Tolleson and Ohlendorf warming up in the bullpen.

"If it had stayed at four runs, Tolleson would be the guy," Banister said. "Where we are at, four runs is a save situation. But once we got past four runs, Ohlendorf would be our guy."

Ohlendforf, in his eighth Major League season with his fifth organization, is 1-0 with a 1.29 ERA in eight September appearances. Only Sam Dyson has more relief appearances for the Rangers this month.

"With the exception of one outing against Seattle, he has been a strong force out of the bullpen," Banister said. "He has come in and given us some big outs. We need that type of guy. If not, Tolleson is in some of those games. Instead he has been able to get some rest, which is crucial for him."

The Rangers signed Ohlendorf as a Minor League free agent, and he was close to making the team out of Spring Training. But he was sidelined with a strained right groin muscle, an issue that bothered him for much of the season. That appears to no longer be the case.

Worth noting

• Banister replaced center fielder Delino DeShields with Will Venable for the final two innings of Wednesday's game. Banister said the Rangers are trying to ease the pounding on DeShields' sore left knee and give him a break when they get the chance.

Josh Hamilton, recovering from Sept. 11 knee surgery, did more outfield work on Thursday morning. He was out early, along with Mike Napoli, taking fly balls from field coordinator Jayce Tingler. Banister said the Rangers want to get Hamilton to the point where he doesn't need a pinch-runner on the bases before they consider him a defensive option.

Rougned Odor, who was born on Feb. 3, 1994, hit his 15th home run on Wednesday night. That is the second most ever by a second baseman at age 21 or under. He passed Hall of Famer Joe Morgan, who had 14 at that age, and only trails Bill Mazeroski, who had 19.

T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields, follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.