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Rolling despite pitching injuries, Rangers to add Oswalt on Friday

By Scott Miller | Senior Baseball Columnist
Roy Oswalt will provide the Rangers with some needed pitching depth. (Getty Images)

The Texas Rangers are in a great place right now, and not just because Roy Oswalt rides to the rescue of an injury-depleted pitching staff with Friday night's start against Colorado.

No, time and place are smiling on the Rangers because a team racked with pitching injuries is knee-deep into the clown portion (bro) of its schedule that calls for nine consecutive games against the Astros, Padres and Rockies. As of Wednesday, that trio combined to produce three of the worst five records in the majors.

As the old hardball saying goes, it's not always who you play, but when you play them.

The friendly scheduling comes with starters Neftali Feliz (right elbow) and Derek Holland (left elbow) and relievers Alexi Ogando (groin) and Koji Uehara (lat) all on the disabled list.

The two-time defending American League champion Rangers showed up for work Wednesday at 42-27, equaling the franchise record for best-ever mark after 69 games. Talk about maintaining.

"That's what we do," manager Ron Washington said. "There's no panic. We just go play baseball. We just go play baseball with whoever we have.

"That's what good teams do."

Already a good team -- and good is a modest understatement -- the Rangers have a chance to be better once Oswalt shows up in Arlington on Friday. They signed him for $5 million for the rest of the season, plus another $1 million available to him in incentives.

Following four starts in the minor leagues, Oswalt will be turned loose. He threw 100 pitches in his most recent outing, Sunday for Triple-A Round Rock.

Expectations are for Oswalt, 34, "to pitch us deep into games and to help us win," Rangers general manager Jon Daniels said. "Same as with the rest of the guys. He's no different than anyone else."

Oswalt had been working out and throwing at his home in Mississippi through the spring while entertaining late free agent offers. By the time he signed with the Rangers on May 29, Daniels estimated, he was "past where guys typically are when they show up to spring training." The GM also noted that Oswalt, who has battled back issues in recent seasons, is "bigger and stronger than he's been the last few years."

So far, so good, according to Oswalt.

"I don't think, really and truthfully, I'm different than I was in 2010 when I had probably my best all-around year," Oswalt said.

He was speaking mostly of the second half of 2010, when he went 7-1 with a 1.74 ERA and an 0.895 WHIP in 13 starts with the Phillies after being traded from the Astros.

As for pitching in Texas' hitter-friendly park, Oswalt dismissed that out of hand.

"It's a good-looking ballpark," said Oswalt, who comes to Texas with a 159-93 career record. "I always loved coming to Arlington as a player.

"When I got to Houston in 2001, that was the No. 1 home run park. And Philly was second. I've never really been in a park that's friendly to pitchers."

Working through his four minor-league starts, the big things for Oswalt were to get his command and his curveball to a point with which he was happy.

Now, he'll take those directly into an AL West race that the Rangers led by five games, over the Angels, before Wednesday's game.

Even with their depleted staff, the Rangers owned the biggest divisional lead of any first-place club in baseball.

Oswalt will join Yu Darvish , Colby Lewis, Matt Harrison and rookie Justin Grimm in an overhauled rotation. Scott Feldman, who beat the Padres on Tuesday night, will move to the bullpen.

"He brings experience," Washington said of Oswalt. "He's pitched in many big-time games. We know he's not intimidated.

"We expect him to eat a lot of innings. And by eating those innings, he'll help us win ballgames."

Likes: Davey Johnson vs. Joe Maddon in the case of Joel Peralta. This current spat is exquisitely entertaining, particularly the part where Johnson, 69, calls Maddon a "weird wuss." Outstanding. ... R.A. Dickey's book, Wherever I Wind Up, is one of the best baseball player books I've read in a long time. Very thoughtful, very insightful and brutally honest. ... Day baseball. ... Pete Seeger: The Power of Song. Great documentary. Caught up with it the other night, and it's a fantastic history lesson -- of Seeger, the folk music movement, unions and this country. Lots of great old footage. ... Bill Murray, owner of the Class A Charleston RiverDogs (a Yankees affiliate), driving Yankees GM Brian Cashman at the Carolina/California League All-Star Game the other day. Murray is outstanding, and the combination of him and summer reminds me: The film Meatballs is one of the most underrated in the Murray canon.

Dislikes: Anytime Phil Collins or Peter Gabriel come onto the radio, I'm changing the channel.

Rock 'n' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"Summer
"It turns me upside down"

-- The Cars, Magic

 
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