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Big League Stew

Roy Oswalt doesn’t need to save the Rangers, he only needs to provide insurance and depth

Kevin Kaduk
Big League Stew

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(AP)

Goodness gracious, of all the dramatic things I've ever seen —Roy Oswalt is climbing off his tractor in Mississippi to serve as a rotation help for the Texas Rangers!

That's the news, anyway, from Gerry Fraley of the Dallas Morning News, who broke the story on Tuesday afternoon. Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports later placed the terms at one year worth a non-prorated $5 or 6 million.

And so ends the drama of where the best available pitcher will call home for the rest of the season. While the Phillies and Dodgers developed recent needs with Roy Halladay and Ted Lilly respectively hitting the disabled list, the 34-year-old righthander has opted to stay close to home while providing some much-needed insurance for the Rangers' pitching staff. Though it's uncertain how many starts he'll need in the minors to prepare, Oswalt should first help to fill the rotation hole created by Neftali Feliz's injury then provide back-end depth as the two-time AL champions aim for a third straight World Series.

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Exactly what kind of performance Oswalt will provide, though, remains to be seen. He hasn't pitched since starting  Game 4 of the NLDS for the Phillies last Oct. 5 and is coming off a season that saw him land on the disabled list for a back injury.

Despite being touted as one of Philadelphia's "Four Aces" before the 2011 season, Oswalt was rather ordinary over the 139 innings he did pitch. While his 3.69 ERA passed the sniff test, his 104 ERA+ and 6.0 K/9 rate — both among the lowest of his career — did not. Now he's pitching in the American League for the first time and in a ballpark that is no picnic to pitch in.

Then again, the AL West-leading Rangers don't exactly need an ace or even a top-three starter here. That's what Yu Darvish, Derek Holland and Colby Lewis are for.

What the Rangers do need is a reliable option to pitch innings in Arlington's summer heat as they prepare for another prolonged run in October. They need someone to out-Feldman Scott Feldman and provide insurance should Feliz experience a setback in returning to the rotation around the All-Star break.

Now, is part of the Rangers' gamble based on the memory of Oswalt being traded to the Phillies in 2010 and him going on to post a 7-1 record with a 1.74 ERA over his final 12 starts? Of course it is. Name recognition and the memories of past success answers a lot of phones in this sport. Maybe Oswalt's health will allow him to channel part of what led him to lead Houston's rotation all those years.

But Oswalt doesn't need to be quite that good for this investment to pay off for the Rangers. If he stays healthy and keeps that Rangers rotation fresh and the Texas offense in ballgames, it will be enough. There are any number of teams that would have been willing to place a $5 or 6 million bet on Oswalt the second half of this season, but Texas is the only club that gets to grip the dice. After a couple of months of suspense, it's time to get rolling and see what he has to offer.

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