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CBSSports.com Senior Writer

Despite shaky debut, Phillies know Oswalt will contribute

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WASHINGTON -- He's still getting used to the new uniform.

And those red shoes.

Philly manager Charlie Manuel on Roy Oswalt: 'He's still good. He's going to be fine.' (US Presswire)  
Philly manager Charlie Manuel on Roy Oswalt: 'He's still good. He's going to be fine.' (US Presswire)  
They're still getting used to the idea of having two starting pitchers with the same name.

"We haven't quite worked it out yet," Jimmy Rollins said Friday, as he awaited Roy Oswalt's Phillies debut. "[Roy Halladay is] Doc on the days he pitches, but on the other days, he's just Roy. And I've always just called Roy [Oswalt] Roy."

These are the things the Phillies concern themselves with. And this is what the Phillies don't concern themselves with: Oswalt's numbers in his first game as an ex-Astro, which were six innings, five runs and an 8-1 Phils loss to the Nationals.

It's not like the Phillies were judging Oswalt on Friday night. It's not like they were sizing him up, trying to figure out whether general manager Ruben Amaro's latest midseason addition was a good one or not.

They know what they have, or at least they believe they know what they have. Manager Charlie Manuel said Friday afternoon that the addition of Oswalt makes this the best Phillies pitching staff he's ever managed, quite a thing to say for the man who has taken his team to back-to-back World Series.

A Nyjer Morgan triple on Oswalt's first pitch as a Phillie wasn't going to change that. A fastball that Oswalt had trouble commanding, leading to seven hits, a couple of walks and a couple of hit batters wasn't going to change it.

This isn't just some guy the Phillies picked up because they needed a pitcher. This is a guy who they proudly tell us has the second lowest career ERA of any active pitcher with 1,500 innings, just behind Johan Santana and just ahead of that other Roy. This is a guy who is 70-25 career after the All-Star break, also just behind Santana.

This is a guy who was once a 20-game winner, and even if he isn't every bit as good now as he was then, he's still better than anyone else who was traded this month -- except for Cliff Lee.

Perhaps, if Oswalt has a couple more starts like Friday's, Phillies fans will complain again about Amaro's decision to trade Lee last December. They'll remind him that Lee put on his red Phillies shoes last July and debuted with a complete-game 5-1 win over the Giants -- and then won four more starts before suffering his first Phillies loss.

They might even look at the numbers and notice that Oswalt's career record against National League East teams isn't all that great. He's 0-3 with a 7.58 ERA in seven starts against the Braves, 5-5 in 13 starts against the Mets.

If Oswalt doesn't do well, maybe he'll share some regrets about accepting the trade to Philadelphia. For now, he says there were no regrets -- none at all.

"I really didn't have any [hesitations]," he said. "Some of those reports were just made up."

He talked about the crowd Friday night at Nationals Park, and how it was filled with as many Phillies fans as Nationals fans.

"You don't get that in Houston, except at home," he said.

More on Phillies-Nats

He talked about his old teammate and good friend Lance Berkman, and about Berkman's Friday trade to the Yankees.

"Sometimes a change of scenery turns you around," Oswalt said.

He's not looking for a big turnaround himself. His 6-12 record with Houston this year was more a reflection of the Astros' struggle to score runs than it was of the way he pitched.

His turnaround came in the standings, leaving an Astros team that was 17 games under .500 and joining a Phillies team that had won eight in a row to close within 2½ games of the Braves and 1½ games of the wild-card lead.

"One good thing is this team is good from top to bottom," he said. "It's hard to gain 30 games overnight."

He admitted that all the activity of the last two days, from the time the Astros first told him of the proposed trade Wednesday night through the time he got to the ballpark Friday and met his new teammates and coaches, probably had something to do with the way he pitched. He said it felt almost like his first day in the big leagues, with everything so new.

The difference is that when it really is a guy's first day in the big leagues, we watch every pitch for a sign of how he's going to be. We know that one game doesn't make a career, but we have so little else to judge him on.

In this case, we have nearly 10 years' worth of evidence on Oswalt. We know what Roy Oswalt is, and so do the Phillies.

"I've seen him a lot," manager Charlie Manuel said. "I saw him [early in his career]. He was real good back then. He's still good. He's going to be fine."

The same can likely be said for the Phillies, who have a few things to straighten out (they're 4-12 on the road over the last month) and a few guys to get healthy (Chase Utley and Shane Victorino are still missing from the lineup), but find themselves with a true chance to get back to October.

Back to what Oswalt calls "true baseball," in the playoffs.

"We're in a good spot," Rollins said. "The good thing is we never let it get too far out of hand."

They're in a good spot, and they've won enough over the last three years that they easily put games like Friday's behind them. They worry about more important things.

Like what to call two starting pitchers named Roy.

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