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05/29/12 10:15 PM ET
Rangers, Oswalt agree on one-year deal
Veteran right-hander has been sitting out as free agent
By T.R. Sullivan / MLB.com
ARLINGTON -- The Rangers agreed to the basic terms of a one-year, $5 million contract with Roy Oswalt two days ago. They finalized the deal on Tuesday night.
Now they have to get him stretched out and ready to pitch in a Major League rotation. The Rangers don't know when that will be, but the process starts on Saturday when he pitches for Triple-A Round Rock.
That will be Oswalt's first appearance for the Rangers after formally agreeing to a Minor League contract. The Rangers brought him on board to eventually fill the spot in the rotation that came open when Neftali Feliz went on the disabled list with a sprained right elbow.
"This is a chance to add quality pitching to our Major League team," general manager Jon Daniels said. "We're trying to win and we have to look at all our possibilities. He's motivated, he's a productive guy and he's in very good shape. He has something to prove and he wants to win."
Oswalt, whose deal also includes $1 million in incentives, must first pass a physical on Thursday. The Rangers do not anticipate a problem, but Oswalt does have a history of back/hip problems. He has been on the DL five times in the past six years, including twice last season with the Phillies.
The Rangers have already had Mike Anderson, one of their scouts, watch Oswalt throw a couple of weeks ago. Assuming he does pass his physical, Oswalt will begin at Round Rock and go from there. Most likely he will need three or four starts before he's ready to pitch at the big league level.
"I don't want to put a number on it," Daniels said. "He'll start on Saturday and be a part of the [Round Rock] rotation until he's ready. When he is, we'll see what we're doing up here and make a call."
Feliz went on the DL one week ago and was shut down from throwing for four weeks. At the end of that period, he will be evaluated by Dr. Keith Meister. Feliz is not expected to be back before the All-Star break.
But Feliz is expected to be back. The question is whether there will still be a spot in the rotation when he is.
"That's a good question," Daniels said. "I'm not sure we have an answer. The focus is on getting Neftali healthy. We just don't know what will happen. ... You need a lot of depth and talent to win."
Daniels said much will depend on how long Feliz is out, how long he'll need to get back into shape and what the organization feels is the best role for him. The Rangers are not certain Feliz will return to the rotation immediately upon his return.
"He's capable of it," Daniels said. "The only reason I don't say yes is we want to see what the doctor says. That's something we have to talk with Neftali about. The bottom line is we want to get him healthy before we talk about spots and roles."
Until Oswalt is ready, Scott Feldman will remain in the rotation. He made his fourth start for the Rangers on Tuesday night against the Mariners and allowed four runs in 4 2/3 innings.
"Nothing's changed at the big league level right now," Daniels said. "Scott is in the rotation and will be there the next time. At some point, Roy will be ready and Neftali will be ready. Nothing has changed right now."
The Red Sox, Orioles, Phillies and Dodgers all showed some interest in Oswalt, but he made it clear in the offseason he would prefer to pitch either with the Cardinals or the Rangers. Oswalt has a long relationship with Rangers president Nolan Ryan and makes his home in Mississippi. He also played for Rangers bench coach Jackie Moore and pitching coach Mike Maddux in 2000 at Round Rock while in the Astros' farm system.
Ryan spoke with Oswalt during the negotiating process and Daniels said that was a big part of the Rangers being able to sign him.
"I think if you look at our ballclub, my relationship with him, Jackie Moore, Mike Maddux, some of our players, there is a familiarity there," Ryan said. "He's pitched here and there's a close proximity to his home. Plus the fact we're in the position we're in all worked in our favor. The fact that he's healthy, once he gets innings in, he'll fit into our rotation and be able to pitch deep into the game."
Oswalt pitched with the Phillies in 2011 and was 9-10 with a 3.69 ERA in 23 starts and 139 innings. Over 11 Major League seasons, he has a career record of 159-93 with a 3.21 ERA. He won 20 games for the Astros in both 2004 and '05, and is a three-time All-Star. He has also finished in the top six in voting for the National League's Cy Young Award in six different seasons.