BY LESLIE MONTEIRO
Roy Oswalt begged teams to give him a tryout this offseason.
He wanted to atone for last year’s horrible performance with the Rangers, and he wanted to retire on a positive note.
Not many teams called, and it’s understandable why he had no feelers after going 4-3 with a .571 ERA in nine starts and 17 games. Plus, his reputation took a hit as he was viewed as a malcontent after not being happy about being a Rangers reliever.
Fortunately for Oswalt, the Rockies called. They are willing to try anyone, and that shows how desperate they are when it comes to pitching.
They signed him to a minor-league contract, and he pitched well enough by going 3-2 with a 2.16 ERA while striking out 25 hitters.
Oswalt’s ability to strike guys out was why the Rockies feel confident he would do well in the starting rotation.
It was a perfect match for both parties.
For Oswalt, this was about him wanting something to prove. He wanted to show that he still has it in pitching in the majors.
This was about him wanting to show perseverance after going through setbacks.
This was about him wanting to find the joy of pitching in the majors again.
For the Rockies, they just wanted a starter who can pitch.
Oswalt made his Rockies debut last night, and it was a mixed bag. That should be expected for a guy who hasn’t started in quite awhile.
Oswalt struck out 11 Nationals, but he gave up four runs and nine hits in five innings, even though his defense did not field well. He took the loss in the Rockies’ 5-1 loss to the Nationals last night at Nationals Park.
His fastball had so much movement, and he threw 94 miles per hour.
He did a good job of mixing up curveballs, sliders and changeups to add to his fastball.
Despite only using few pitches to throw curveballs, sliders and changeups, he at least used them to get hitters out rather than rely on fastball.
It’s important he continues to mix in different pitches if he wants to make the most of his stint as a Rockie.
He showed glimpses of what he was when he was an Astro. That was when he was a premier pitcher in the National League.
With that said, he is not going to be the workhorse he used to be. He can only go six or seven innings. If he can do that, that’s a great thing.
It’s all about survival for Oswalt. He can’t get by with sheer talent anymore.
Being that he is a 35-year old starter, he is going to be a different pitcher. He has to rely on smarts to get out of jams based on his experience with the Astros and Phillies.
He could be successful based on the fact he pitched in the National League all years. He feels that’s the case, which is why he wanted to pitch in the National League.
The American League features many great hitters, and Oswalt does not have the stuff to get them out.
In the National League, there are many role players that are in the lineup, so Oswalt feels he can do well in getting guys out.
The Rockies have to hope Oswalt does well. They think he can be a difference maker by being an innings-eater and giving quality starts. They think he is it.
If Oswalt does not perform, the Rockies are going to be hard-pressed to find another starter that is effective.
Jeff Francis is in the minors, but that ship sailed about him being back in the rotation. He is not effective anymore after going 2-5 with a 6.58 ERA in 11 starts. Why would things change after he pitched at Triple-A Colorado Springs?
They are taking a leap of faith in Oswalt.
It remains to be seen how good he can be. Last night was a good start, but sustaining it is another question.
Oswalt can’t be a .500 pitcher. He has to win when he is out there every fifth day for this signing to work. He has to go seven innings in most of his starters. That’s the only way this signing is going to work out for the Rockies.
For Oswalt, this is it for him. If he struggles, he may have made his last Major League appearance. No team is going to want a 35-year old starter that is washed up.
This is a sense of urgency for him.
He knows that he can’t take it for granted when it comes to pitching in Major League Baseball anymore.
He wants to make the most of his opportunity, and he wants to enjoy every minute of it. This is his last go round.
He certainly basked in the glow last night after his first start. He was happy that it worked out for him, and he enjoyed pitching out there. For him, it was like his first game in the majors.
That’s the feeling an old player gets after spending some time in the minors to get a chance to get back in Major League Baseball.
He wants to keep this going.
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