He didn’t get the win, but in his Rockies debut last night Roy Oswalt showed that he is healthy, strong and could potentially become the rotational anchor that Colorado has been searching for all season.
Let’s go ahead and get the bad out of the way. Oswalt gave up four runs on nine hits, and the Rockies dropped their fourth straight game (this is the first time the team has lost four straight this season) to fall to a .500 record (this is the first time the team has been .500 this season).
The veteran right hander was far from efficient, running up a 101 pitch count in just five innings of work.
But in analyzing why his line was so inefficient, we find the underlying positives to Oswalt’s start.
The high pitch count was not due to lack of control. On the contrary, the 35 year old did not walk a single batter last night. And he tallied a remarkable 11 strikeouts against the Washington Nationals – the most by a Colorado starter this season and one shy of Oswalt’s career high of 12 he set as a rookie in 2001.
In reflecting on his performance, Oswalt actually blamed his high strikeout number for his lack of efficiency.
“It’s hard to say this, but really too many strikeouts got my pitch count up, and I was trying to go deeper into the game,” MLB.com’s Thomas Harding quotes Oswalt as saying after the game.
The right hander’s fastball was fantastic. It was clocked as high as 94 miles per hour, and was the strikeout pitch on 10 of his 11 Ks.
Admittedly, his changeup was nowhere near as sharp. One resulted in a second-inning homerun to Nationals shortstop Ian Desmond.
“I felt pretty well, but I’ve got to work on command with my offspeed pitches a little more,” Oswalt said. “Being a little excited probably made the changeup a little worse than it should be.”
A little rust is to be expected. Oswalt made his last start on September 9 of last year, and last appeared in a game on October 2, both as a member of the Texas Rangers.
The Rockies did not sign Oswalt until May 2, which means he did not have the benefit of participating in Spring Training and had to sit for the first month of the regular season. He took part in the team’s extended Spring Training before being assigned to Double-A Tulsa with the goal of preparing for a major league call-up.
Oswalt, a four-time All-Star, started a sort of downward spiral while struggling through a back injury with the Philadelphia Phillies in 2011. He signed late with the Rangers in 2012, was in and out of the starting rotation, and finished the year with an unimpressive 5.80 ERA.
Oswalt claims to be healthy this year, and says he feels like he has the same stuff he had in 2010. That was the year he joined the Phillies midseason, and posted a 7-1 record with a 1.74 ERA in 12 starts with them.
The Rockies certainly hope that is the case. Thus far, they have been unable to plug the hole that exists in the fifth spot of their rotation. Prior attempts with Jon Garland (released) and Jeff Francis (optioned to Triple-A) have failed.
The club is just 2-5 since Troy Tulowitski injured his rib cage – an injury expected to keep the All-Star shortstop sidelined for four to six weeks. To be successful, Oswalt need only be solid enough to anchor the rotation and help the Rockies tread water until Tulowitski’s return.
If he can throw that changeup with a little more consistency, Colorado will have found themselves a tremendous bargain.