May 31, 2012

Oswalt hopes to help push Texas Rangers 'over the top'

The veteran remembers a costly pitch in the 2005 Fall Classic.

ARLINGTON -- Roy Oswalt remembers one pitch from his lone start in the 2005 World Series.

He had worked four scoreless innings, and the Houston Astros had a 4-0 lead over the Chicago White Sox going into the fifth.

Oswalt, though, gave up five runs in the fifth, including two runs on a two-out double by White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski. Chicago went on to win the game in the 14th inning, and eventually won the title in a four-game sweep.

"I remember I should've kept pounding the ball in on him, and I threw the ball away and he got a hit," Oswalt said. "That one thing sticks in my mind more than anything. ... One bad pitch killed me that game. We could've won that game. I look back at that thinking it was the wrong pitch selection, but you live and learn."

Ever since that night, Oswalt has been hungry to get back to the Fall Classic. That's why he didn't mind waiting two months this season in order for the right opportunity to present itself.

Oswalt met with Texas Rangers president and CEO Nolan Ryan and general manager Jon Daniels in the off-season, but they didn't have an opening for him. They do now with Neftali Feliz going on the disabled list with right elbow inflammation. Oswalt and the Rangers agreed to terms on a one-year contract Tuesday.

The deal is pending a physical and, if all goes well, Oswalt will begin his path to the Rangers' rotation with a two-to-three inning start at Triple A Round Rock on Saturday. The leading factor for Oswalt coming to the Rangers was the chance to play on a contending team.

"Making a decision to wait until the season started gave me a little bit of an opportunity to evaluate the teams and see just who I thought would be the best team going into it," Oswalt said. "I still think this is the team to beat.

"Just looking at the team as a whole, one through nine, is probably the best lineup in the game. I was thinking if I could get over here and help the team out as far as eat up some innings and take a little pressure off the bullpen, maybe that would push them over the top."

Oswalt has thrown 200 or more innings in seven of his 11 big league seasons. He has been selected to three All-Star teams, and has finished in the top six of the National League Cy Young voting six times.

But Oswalt threw only 139 innings last season, battling back injuries and taking time off to help his family when a tornado ripped through his hometown in Mississippi in April.

Oswalt downplayed any lingering physical issues, saying he's thrown bullpen sessions that have ranged anywhere from 65-85 pitches every other day. He has simulated game situations, too, sitting down and getting back up and throwing out of the stretch.

"I'm not worried about [my back] at all," Oswalt said. "The biggest thing right now is just to get some innings and throwing against batters. I know it's a little different when you get hitters out there, probably go 10 percent harder, but I feel pretty good with where I'm at."

Oswalt reiterated that he felt comfortable signing with Texas because of his previous relationships with Ryan, bench coach Jackie Moore and pitching coach Mike Maddux. He also expressed an interest in helping the Rangers' young pitching staff continue to develop.

But his primary focus is on one thing.

"I'd like one ring to complete the set, that's the one I want," Oswalt said. "I got every other ring."

Daniels has a similar mindset, and hopes the addition of Oswalt helps the Rangers reach their ultimate goal.

"I think the ideal situation for the GM is to be the last team standing at the end of October," Daniels said. "And that's what this move is about, it's about winning."

Drew Davison


Twitter: @drewdavison

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