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June 21, 2013

What You Need to Know

The Rocky Road Less Traveled

by Daniel Rathman


The Thursday Takeaway
The Rockies on Thursday turned to their seventh starting pitcher of the season, the oldest one to toe the rubber for Walt Weiss’ squad this year. And while you might not know it from a glance at the scoreboard, which showed a 5-1 victory for the Nationals, in Roy Oswalt, general manager Dan O’Dowd may have found a diamond in the rough.

Oswalt signed a minor-league hitch with the Rockies on May 2 and reported to Double-A Tulsa a few weeks later to prepare for an eventual return to the majors. The contract included both performance bonuses and a late-June out clause, but it wasn’t merely the language in the deal that forced O’Dowd’s hand this week. Oswalt amassed a 2.16 ERA over five starts for the Drillers, to go with a 25-to-7 K:BB in 33 1/3 innings, and he tossed 8 1/3 shutout frames in his final tune-up outing on June 14.

Last night, Oswalt supplied compelling evidence that there is gas left in his 35-year-old tank:

According to the Brooks Baseball PITCHf/x data, Oswalt routinely hit 92-93 mph with his fastball and could reach back for 94-95 when he needed it, both notable because he sat in the 91-mph range while serving as a swingman for the Rangers last year. He mixed in a passable changeup and exhibited excellent control of his curveball, earning called, swinging, or foul-ball strikes with eight of the nine hooks that he threw.

The outing was far from flawless. In the second inning, Oswalt hung a 1-1 changeup that Ian Desmond walloped 419 feet for a solo home run. In the fifth, Adam LaRoche pounced on a grooved, 2-2 fastball and drilled it to deep right-center field for a two-run triple. But amid those mistakes, which led to three of the four runs with which he was charged—the other scored on a fourth-inning single by Kurt Suzuki—Oswalt also enjoyed stretches of dominance, dominance of the sort that fans of the Rockies have seldom seen.

Seventy of his 101 pitches went for strikes, 17 of those strikes were of the swing-and-miss variety, and 14 of those whiffs were induced by the fastball, which blew away numerous Nationals batters. Oswalt’s impressive velocity and control helped him to log 11 strikeouts without issuing a walk, a ratio that renders somewhat forgivable the nine hits and four runs that accompanied those numbers on his final line.

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<< Previous Article
Premium Article The Prospectus Hit Lis... (06/21)
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