Published February 23, 2011
| Associated Press
CLEARWATER, Fla. – Being the other Roy on the Philadelphia Phillies' staff of aces is just fine with Roy Oswalt.
Roy Halladay received most of the attention last year because he threw a perfect game, a no-hitter in his first postseason start and won the NL Cy Young Award.
Cliff Lee stole the headlines when he shocked everyone by signing a $120 million, five year contract with the Phillies instead of taking more money from the New York Yankees.
Cole Hamels has the most outgoing personality in the group, and the only World Series ring among the four top starters.
Oswalt doesn't care about the spotlight. In fact, he's at his best when he shares it. The 33-year-old right-hander had consecutive 20-win seasons in 2004-05 with the Houston Astros when Roger Clemens and Andy Pettitte were his teammates.
"When Roger and Andy pitched with me, they got most of the media attention and most of the publicity and it was good," Oswalt said. "They picked up the slack. Most of the questions here are gonna deal with Cliff and Doc winning the Cy Young, so let them handle it."
Oswalt barely spoke during a news conference with the other members of the starting rotation last week. He answered two questions and only because both were addressed to him.
That doesn't mean Oswalt is difficult. He's certainly no Albert Belle. Oswalt is actually the most visible of the Fab Five starters. He sat at his locker every morning during the first week of spring training and did several one-on-one interviews, politely talking in his Mississippi drawl to anyone who approached him.
Coming to Philadelphia from Houston has rejuvenated Oswalt. The Astros were a going-nowhere team, and Oswalt wanted to be on a team with a chance to win a World Series. He didn't get much run support with the Astros and was just 6-12 despite a 3.42 ERA before the trade last July.
Oswalt delivered, helping catapult the Phillies into first place. Down the stretch, Oswalt was even better than Halladay. The three-time All-Star was 7-1 with a 1.74 ERA with Philadelphia. Halladay was 9-2 during that span, but his ERA was more than a run higher at 2.94.
"Any time you are in the playoff hunt, you are gonna pitch better," Oswalt said. "Being in Houston half the year, we were out of it by the All-Star break. You didn't feel that sense of trying to get to something. You feel that you are just trying to get through the year. When you know you have a good enough team to win the whole thing, and we have a great chance to do that this year, you just try to do your part because everyone is going to do their part."
Oswalt learned a lot from Clemens and Pettitte as a youngster. He sees similarities with Philadelphia's staff.
"Those guys had a plan before they got to the field of what they were trying to do during the game," he said. "Their preparation is probably the best thing I picked up from them. On the field, everyone pitches their own style. You don't really get mechanics or anything like that from anybody on the field. But the preparation is probably the biggest thing from those guys.
"I come here and these guys do the same thing. First day I get here, I see Doc and Cole in the video room taking notes on different things they're going to try to do in the game. I think good pitchers that are trying to get better, you try to do every little thing to win."
Oswalt does whatever it takes to win, even if it means playing an unfamiliar position or taking on a different role. In late August, Oswalt was called upon to play left field in the 14th inning of a game against Houston after the Phillies ran out of position players.
During the NLCS, Oswalt volunteered to pitch in relief in Game 4 after throwing eight dominant innings against San Francisco two days earlier. It didn't work out. He gave up the winning run in the ninth and the Giants took a 3-1 series lead before finishing it off in six games.
"You get to that point of the year, you have eight or nine games left, you have to do whatever it takes to get there," he said. "I know I'm not gonna play 10 more years. So, I tried to do whatever I could do to get to that final game."
Oswalt is a gamer and he always wants the ball. That attitude quickly endeared him to the feisty Phillies fans.
"The fans are great, they are unbelievable," Oswalt said. "Any time you can play and there's 45,000 people behind, you can feel it. When you get late in the game, you need a crucial strikeout or a crucial out, they get into it. They know the game. That's the best part about them. A lot of times you go to the park and the fans don't know the game that well. In Philly, they're knowledgeable fans."
Oswalt is entering the final guaranteed season of his contract. He's due to make $16 million this season, and has a mutual option for $16 million next year. He's not sure if he'll be back in Philadelphia and said retirement is a possibility.
"It's my last year on my contract pretty much. It's a mutual option, but they have to want to pick it up," he said. "I don't know where I'm going to be (physically) at the end of the year. I always told myself once I get to a point where I can't be what I was when I came up, then I'm not gonna keep playing. I'll see where I'm at at the end of the year."
If he's holding a World Series trophy at victory parade, his decision could be a little easier.