LEE HARVEY OSWALT

BY: Richard W. Humphrey

Ranger starting pitcher Roy Oswalt is fast becoming public enemy number one for Ranger fans. He started Sunday afternnoon’s game against the Rays in St. Petersburg, the rubber match of a three game series. Matt Harrison was originally announced as Sunday’s starter, but he has not pitched well in his three most recent starts, so it was decided to push him back a couple of days. With an off day on Monday, he will now be starting game one of the three game series with the Indians on Tuesday. The move also serves to give at least one extra day of rest for the rest of the staff, certainly not a bad idea at this time of the year.

Sunday’s starting assignment was Oswalt’s first game appearance of any kind since August 23, when he started against the Minnesota Twins. It did not go well. He gave up four runs, three of which scored on a pair of long home runs, in just two innings. Oswalt didn’t return for the third, and it was later announced that had pain in the elbow of his right (throwing) arm.

After the game, Oswalt again complained of how he has been utilized, telling reporters that it’s difficult to stay sharp when the game action is so sporadic. He effectively blamed the Rangers for the injury. He is right about the sporadic use, but he has no one to blame for his situation than himself.

He signed in May as the Ranger pitching injuries began to mount. He said he had been throwing and keeping in shape, but his activity at home in Mississippi did not come close to simulating spring training. He made four minor league starts in which he was 1-1 with a 5.87 ERA against AA and AAA competition. He threw four innngs or less in three of those appearances, but pronounced himself ready to be activated, which the Rangers accommodated on June 23.

Over the course of his first six starts, he compiled a 6.40 ERA. The trend wasn’t good either as two of the three wins were the first two games he pitched in which the Ranger batters supported his pitching effort with 17 runs. In his sixth start, he gave up eight runs to the Angels in a 15-8 Ranger loss.

When the Rangers acquired Ryan Dempster from the Cubs at the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline, he was the starter that was relegated to the bullpen. He complained to beat writers then about the demotion then, but there was no question at the time that Oswalt was the worst pitcher in the rotation at the time and should be the one to go. The only one to question the move was Oswalt himself, who seems delusional about what is happening on the field.

Two things have become abundantly clear about Oswalt. His body language clearly lets everyone know that he is not happy being a part of the Texas Rangers, and at this point in time, he is simply not a very good pitcher. He easily cleared waivers in August making him eligible to be traded, but the Rangers found little interest in the market place. And in August, there is seemingly always interest from contending teams in cheap pitching help.

Fortunately for Texas, he has little inflence in the Ranger clubhouse. His sour, selfish attitude does not garner sympathy from the other players, who largely choose to ignore him. His attitude may be a cancer to his performance, but he is no cancer in the clubhouse.

After Oswalt departed Sunday, Martin Perez entered the game and proceeded to give up two more runs – both scoring on B. J. Upton solo home runs – over five innings.

With the rosters expanded in September, there seems to be little need for Oswalt. He has no place on the Rangers’ post season roster. He is obviously going to pitch only in throwaway situations. Texas might as well allocate those appearances to Perez or another minor league prospect. It is surprising that the Rangers haven’t released him already, as he is just taking up space in the clubhouse.

It is a shame this did not work out. Oswalt has been a terrific pitcher for more than a decade. Back issues slowed his 2011 season with the Phillies, but those appeared to be behind him when he signed with Texas. He had worked with pitching coach Mike Maddux at Round Rock many years ago before reaching the Major Leagues, so that appeared to be a good fit. Sometimes the best looking situations simply don’t pan out. This is one of them, and all parties involved would be better off if the split comes sooner rather than later.

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