Oswalt to start for Rockies on Thursday
Three-time All-Star expected to bolster rotation in wide-open NL West
TORONTO -- Right-hander Roy Oswalt, a three-time All-Star and perennial Cy Young Award candidate, will become one of the highest-profile pitchers ever to wear purple pinstripes when he joins the Rockies on Thursday to start against Washington at Nationals Park.
Rockies manager Walt Weiss announced on Tuesday that Oswalt, 35, who signed a Minor League deal with the club on May 3 and made five starts at Double-A Tulsa (3-2, 2.16 ERA), will join the rotation.
"He's always a competitive guy, a tough at-bat," Weiss said. "He's a nice piece to have. He's ready to go. His velocity is real good and throwing all his pitches. "He's done just about everything in this game, pitched in big games and been a staff ace."
Weiss said he will make a corresponding move Thursday. He said it's not likely that the Rockies will go with six starters. Speculation has centered on left-hander Jeff Francis, who was on the mound on Tuesday against the Blue Jays, or right-hander Juan Nicasio, who will start Wednesday night's series finale against the Jays.
The addition is seen as a boon to a starting staff that has had its triumphs and struggles, but nonetheless is part of the reason Colorado entered Tuesday night's game against Toronto second in the National League West, a half-game behind Arizona. For Oswalt, it is a chance to re-establish his value to a contending team after having mediocre results with the Rangers last season.
When Oswalt signed with Texas, he did so after last season began. Rockies catcher Yorvit Torrealba, a teammate of Oswalt with the Rangers, said he wasn't sure Oswalt had pitched enough before joining Texas. Things are expected to be different this time around, as the righty pitched in extended spring training before joining Tulsa.
"He likes to compete," Torrealba said. "I don't think he was ready last year, although his velocity was there, up to 94 [mph]. He's a hard worker, a really great guy, and his numbers through his career speak for themselves."
Oswalt, best known for his work with strong Astros teams from 2001-10, has placed in the top six in National League Cy Young Award voting six times and is 163-96 in 12 Major League seasons. Oswalt was traded to the Phillies in 2010, and pitched last season with the Rangers (4-3, 5.80 ERA in 17 games, including nine starts).
The Rockies, in their 21st year, rarely have had a pitcher with such a track record.
The Rockies signed former 20-game winner Bill Swift before the 1995 season, the same time they signed perennial All-Star Larry Walker. They also acquired two-time Cy Young Award winner Bret Saberhagen from the Mets for their successful 1995 playoff run. Via free agency, the Rockies spent big for Darryl Kile in 1998, and before the 2001 season signed Mike Hampton and Denny Neagle for a combined $172.5 million.
As signings of star pitchers go, this is relatively low-risk for the Rockies. His pay will be pro-rated based on a $2.3 million salary for the season, and he will receive a $400,000 roster bonus for being added to the club, with incentives for number of starts that could reach $1.35 million and for the number of innings pitched that could reach $1.25 million.
Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Hardball in the Rockies, and follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.