Baseball fans in this state know who Roy Oswalt is and what he can do for a playoff contender's chances if he is performing at the level that has made him an All-Star.
But he's also a unique case, as a starting pitcher with an injury history that made teams skeptical during the off-season and as a player who attempted to dictate where he landed and for how much.
Everything seems to have worked out, though it might have taken six more months than he was originally anticipating. But Oswalt is where he wanted to be all along.
Now, he gets to prove that his wait was worth it and that he's worth the prorated contract that will guarantee him $4 million the rest of this season as a member of the Texas Rangers' rotation.
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He makes his 2012 debut tonight against Colorado to open a 10-game homestand, and says he's ready to help the Rangers return to the postseason.
"I'm hoping to get here and help these guys get back into the playoffs and hopefully push him through that last game," Oswalt said Wednesday. "This is just an overall solid team, and I'm just ready to get back out on the field."
October baseball isn't at all unfamiliar to Oswalt, which was part of his allure as the Rangers looked to plug Neftali Feliz's absence in the rotation with a proven arm while trying to make a third straight trip to the World Series.
Oswalt has pitched in 13 playoff games, eight of which were with Houston, and has a career postseason record of 5-2 with a 3.73 ERA. The last time he threw a pitch in the majors was in Game 4 of the 2011 National League Division Series as part of a can't-miss Philadelphia rotation that couldn't pitch its way past eventual world champ St. Louis.
"He brings experience, and has pitched in many big-time games," manager Ron Washington said. "We know he's not intimidated. We certainly expect him to eat a lot of innings and by eating those innings, help us win ballgames. That's the bottom line: helping us win ballgames."
The right-hander is coming off a season in which he spent two stints on the disabled list because of a lingering back issue and also left the Phillies for eight days to return to Mississippi after tornadoes damaged his home and the home of his in-laws.
He has declared the back fit, along with the rest of his body, and there are no concerns about his arm strength after four starts in the minor leagues since he signed his contract June1.
"I feel as good as I've always felt," Oswalt said. "I don't really have any complications anywhere right now. The biggest thing is to get back going and get a few starts under your belt where you have muscle memory and feel comfortable. You can start building off that."
The Rangers will not put a pitch count on him tonight after he logged 100 pitches Sunday for Triple A Round Rock. He commanded all of his pitches and didn't labor while working through the sixth inning.
And he was competitive. That's the one trait that club personnel who know him best believe will make him a winning addition to the Rangers' rotation.
He's ready to show that.
"What you play for is to get back out here," Oswalt said. "Everyone that plays this game is looking for competition. You miss that when you're not around it, and I'm looking forward to it."
Jeff Wilson, 817-390-7760