Friday, June 24, 2011
Posted: 3:25 p.m. Updated: 7:35 p.m.
By John R. Finger
When the Phillies put together their starting rotation last winter, the one pitcher few people worried about was righthander Roy Oswalt. Sure, he had back issues during his career and missed a few starts here and there, but the one thing that was easy to count on was that every five days Oswalt would take the ball.
That hasnt been the case in 2011, though. Before Fridays game against the Oakland As at the Bank, the Phillies placed Oswalt on the 15-day disabled list with back inflammation.
What makes the move particularly interesting is that Oswalt went on the DL before he had an MRI, which he will undergo on Monday. Apparently the results of the MRI exam wont change the fact that Oswalt will be out for a while.
To me its more about his health, general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said. I think hes disappointed that hes not able to perform to the level hes accustomed to performing. Thats probably the biggest thing and I can understand that because hes a competitive guy.
Nevertheless, for a pitcher whose career has been marked by uncanny consistency, 2011 has been abnormal. At 4-6 with a 3.79 ERA in 13 starts, Oswalts innings and velocity have dipped noticeably. He has pitched just 71 13 innings with just 42 strikeouts. That becomes more evident when compared against the 12 starts he made for the Phillies when he arrived in a trade with the Astros at the deadline. In those 12 starts he piled on 81 23 innings and was clearly the Phillies best starter down the stretch.
So when the Phillies were putting together the rotation for the 2011 club, they were hoping for the pitcher who went 7-0 with a 1.41 ERA in 11 starts. Without Oswalt, the Phillies will go with righties Kyle Kendrick and rookie Vance Worley until Joe Blanton is set to return sometime after the all-star break.
Meanwhile, Oswalts career is at a crossroads. After his two-inning outing in St. Louis on Thursday night, Oswalt not only admitted that he had been pitching with an injured back for much of the season, but also told reporters that it is the type of injury that could impact his career.
If the ill health isnt enough, Oswalt took a break from the team early this season to tend to his family after tornadoes ripped through Mississippi. Oswalt was gone for more than a week where he did not pick up a baseball, instead operating a bulldozer to clear fallen trees and the ravages of the storm.
It was after the trip home when Oswalt told reporters that he could walk away from the game and have no regrets.
Hes a competitor, manager Charlie Manuel said. He wants to go out there and he wants to help us win. That I know for sure. Sometimes when people say things it doesnt come out how you mean it, but I think hes old enough to know what he wants to do and when people make decisions and I think that if we get him well hell come back and be good for us.
Still, its tough to believe that Oswalt has pitched his last game for the Phillies. After Thursdays game he said he continued to pitch through the pain because he didnt want to be labeled a quitter. Besides, the Phillies have the best record in baseball and appear to be on a direct path to the playoffs. Oswalt has been to the World Series before, but never won it and the possibility to pitch for a championship club could be too good of an opportunity to pass up.
Hes a competitive guy and I know he wants to help this team, Amaro said. But the only way I know he can help this team is by being 100 percent. It behooves us to try and get him right.
To replace Oswalt on the 25-man roster, the Phillies recalled relief pitcher Scott Mathieson, who had appeared in two games for the Phillies already this year and had 35 strikeouts with a 2.59 ERA in 31 innings for Triple-A Lehigh Valley.
Finally, J.C. Romero cleared waivers after he was designated for assignment last week and was granted his outright release.
E-mail John R. Finger at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @JRFingerCSN.
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