Tuesday, May 29, 2012
Roy Oswalt is good fit, not an ace
By Jean-Jacques Taylor ESPNDallas.com
Whenever Roy Oswalt eventually joins the Texas Rangers' starting rotation, don't view him as a savior. Or even an ace at this stage of his career.
This isn't the pitcher who won 86 games from 2004-2008 and was 159-93 in 11 seasons with the Houston Astros and Philadelphia Phillies. And he's not the player who has been an All-Star three times and finished among the top five in NL Cy Young Award voting five times.
No way that guy would've been a free agent on Memorial Day.
Roy Oswalt has 11 playoff starts to his credit, including an NLDS outing for the Phillies last year.
Hey, perspective is imperative when it comes to Oswalt, who has been on the Rangers' radar for months. The 34-year-old agreed to a one-year deal Tuesday reportedly worth about $5 million.
We all know this season is about winning a title after the Rangers came within one strike -- twice -- of doing it last season.
Oswalt puts the Rangers in even better position to do it because his presence will allow Scott Feldman and Neftali Feliz to return to the bullpen.
Feldman is terrific at baseball's most thankless job, long reliever, which makes him valuable in that role. Feliz, on the disabled list with a sprained right elbow, is expected to miss about two months.
When he comes off the DL, the Rangers shouldn't return Feliz to the rotation. He remains a prized piece of the future and is learning what it takes to be a starter.
Imagine, if you will, a playoff bullpen that uses Feliz in the fifth or sixth inning, Alexi Ogando in the sixth inning and seventh inning, Mike Adams in the eighth inning and Joe Nathan in the ninth.
Mark Lowe, Koji Uehara, Robbie Ross and Feldman pitch situationally.
A bullpen like that makes the Rangers more dangerous than they've been the past two seasons, when they've made consecutive trips to the World Series.
Without having seen him throw one pitch, you figure Oswalt will start Game 3 if the Rangers are in the divisional round of the playoffs.
Sure it's presumptive, but the Rangers are the first AL team to win 30 games and lead the league in hitting and ERA. We'll all be shocked if they don't make the playoffs.
The question is, of course, how much does Oswalt have left?
He has been throwing in Mississippi, where he resides, all offseason. He'll need about three weeks in the minor leagues pitching to hitters and building arm strength before he's ready to face big leaguers.
The Rangers, with their offense, just need a guy who can take the ball every fifth day and keep them in games long enough for the offense to grab a lead and the bullpen to shut it down.
Oswalt, you would think, can still do that.
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Oswalt went 9-10 last season -- the first losing season of his career -- with a 3.69 ERA. He allowed 153 hits in 139 innings with 93 strikeouts and 33 walks.
A balky back limited Oswalt to just 23 starts after eight consecutive seasons of at least 30 starts. Still, he pitched at least six innings 18 times last season.
To succeed, Oswalt must endure some significant adjustments to the American League, even though he has spent the past few years pitching in hitter-friendly parks in Houston and Philadelphia.
The AL lineups are so much deeper than the NL lineups, and the heat at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington is oppressive and takes a physical toll. Oswalt must also adapt to the ballpark's jet stream, which blows out to right field, and a league of hitters he'll have to learn.
But Oswalt should be a calming influence when the Rangers play important games against the Los Angeles Angels in September and playoff baseball in October. He has made 11 postseason starts and has pitched in the championship series and the World Series.
The Rangers expect him to get an opportunity to do so again.