COMMENTARY | Roy Oswalt is loosening up for a return to the major leagues in the coming weeks.
As he does, the Colorado Rockies are on the verge of finding out whether they've solidified a wobbly rotation, or simply humored a faded star with a few last trips to the mound.
The 35-year-old Oswalt has made three starts with the Double-A Tulsa Drillers. He's posted a 2-1 record with a 3.50 ERA, striking out 14 batters and walking just four. The right-hander can bail out of his Rockies contract if he doesn't get called up this month, so, presumably, he'll be making his first start in purple pinstripes in the very near future.
The question is which Oswalt will come to the park. It could be the three-time All-Star who anchored the Astros for a decade and was brilliant with the Phillies in 2010. It could also be the aged, injury-plagued and ultimately dismal pitcher whose cameo with the Rangers last season ended in the bullpen. And that was in favor of perpetually mediocre Ryan Dempster.
The answer could well decide whether the surprisingly still afloat Rockies will remain in contention.
As of June 10, Colorado sits 1.5 games out of first place in the division behind young and unproven Arizona, tied with the defending world champion Giants.
A vintage Oswalt would add a reliable, possibly dominant fourth starter.
He could compliment refreshingly healthy anchors in Jorge De La Rosa and Jhoulys Chacin, and help teach the young and thus far brilliant Tyler Chatwood the ropes.
That leeway also would allow the club to let shaky veteran Jeff Francis fight with talented youngsters Juan Nicasio and Drew Pomeranz for the fifth spot.
With the division's most potent lineup, an Oswalt-bolstered rotation could be enough to lift Colorado to its first NL West title in franchise history.
Obviously, that's a big leap.
The few marquee pitchers who have opted to join the Rockies in their history have had short, miserable stays.
Mike Hampton and Denny Neagle famously fizzled in their brief stints at altitude, making the club gun-shy about signing big-name pitchers ever since.
Even Bret Saberhagen could only stomach one season in Denver.
Those three were pre-humidor, which could be encouraging. But whether the latest one-time star can survive at altitude could go a long way in determining the Rockies' postseason chances.
Chris Cobb is a journalist and freelance writer. He has previously written for The Herald-Zeitung and The Brownsville Herald, and has twice been named as Star Reporter of the Year by the Texas Associated Press Managing Editors.
- Sports & Recreation
- Colorado Rockies
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