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Back injury puts Roy Oswalt’s career in jeopardy

Jun 24, 2011, 1:35 AM EDT


Roy Oswalt left the Phillies’ 12-2 loss to the Cardinals on Thursday night after allowing four runs in two innings and feeling tightness in his lower back.

Later, we discovered that the pain in Oswalt’s back would cause him to miss his next start.

Now, the news has become grim, as the veteran right-hander is talking about the possibility of his injury sending him to the sideline for good.

From Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly:

“You throw as long as you can and when you can’t throw anymore you don’t,” the 33-year-old pitcher said after the game. “Hopefully it’s not to the point where I can’t throw anymore. If it’s at that point, you just have to accept it.”

Oswalt said he will have an MRI on Monday – doesn’t that seem a little far off for something this serious? – and if the examination brings the type of news that puts his career in jeopardy …

“I’ve had a pretty good one,” Oswalt said with resignation.


Oswalt has been dealing with back issues for years, and told Salisbury that he has had “a lot” of cortisone injections over the years. An MRI “a year or two ago” revealed two degenerative discs. This season, Oswalt says, he has felt pain “when I sit down, stand up, walk, pitch, sleep,” and he already spent more than two weeks on the disabled list earlier this season.

Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said “he’s had trouble for quite a while. This started back in Arizona (in April). … I’m definitely concerned about it.”

The loss of Oswalt would be a blow to a team built around its starting rotation of Oswalt, Cliff Lee, Roy Halladay and Cole Hamels. No. 5 starter Joe Blanton has been sidelined since mid-May with elbow inflammation, but rookie Vance Worley has been solid in his place, going 2-1 with a 3.41 ERA in seven games (five starts).

Kyle Kendrick, who allowed two runs in four innings in relief of Oswalt on Thursday, would seem to be the likely candidate to step into the rotation. He is 4-4 with a 3.23 ERA in 18 appearances (including five starts) this season.

Oswalt, a three-time All-Star, is 154-89 with a 3.52 ERA in his 11-year career. He has a mutual option with the Phillies for $16 million next season. If he walks away, or the team buys him out, he’ll be owed $2 million.


  1. Ari Collins - Jun 24, 2011 at 1:54 AM

    Three aces is better than any other team has… but still, here’s hoping they make it to October with 4. Be fun to watch.

    • thenoblebard93 - Jun 24, 2011 at 9:31 AM

      Sorry dude, but the Giants rotation blows you out of the water. My sympathies to Roy, but deal with it. You aren’t the best and you never were.

      • seanmk - Jun 24, 2011 at 10:18 AM

        giants rotation? please phillies have 3 of the top 5 leaders in FIP in the NL. giants have 3 in top 15 but 5 > 15

      • aaronmoreno - Jun 24, 2011 at 10:28 AM

        I don’t think 5 is greater than 15.

      • Ari Collins - Jun 24, 2011 at 10:35 AM

        Math’s a little screwy there, but pretend “>” just means “better”.

  2. Elwood Larf - Jun 24, 2011 at 3:28 AM

    Yankees: Trade a pitching prospect for some upper-level talent. Or don’t. Sign a 32-year-old to a six year contract.

  3. tsi4431 - Jun 24, 2011 at 6:56 AM

    Damn I love being right. 1 down 2 too go. Signing pitchers over age 30 is never a good thing. Just ask the Mets about Santana. Soon the other 2 geezers will be on the DL also. Although, those old farts are better then anyone on my teams rotation.

    • dbick - Jun 24, 2011 at 7:55 AM

      Except Roy Oswalt has had back injuries since he was like 23. And the other two “geezers” are Roy Hallada, who evidently has a bionic arm, and Cliff Lee who also has no injury history.

      • FC - Jun 24, 2011 at 9:53 AM

        Well that’s a bit over the top, Lee did have a DL stint last year, I assume you mean chronic injuries? Oswalt’s back has been poor since forever. It was a given he would have to retire far before most elite pitchers in baseball.

    • dbick - Jun 24, 2011 at 7:55 AM

      Except Roy Oswalt has had back injuries since he was like 23. And the other two “geezers” are Roy Halladay, who evidently has a bionic arm, and Cliff Lee who also has no injury history.

    • sportsdrenched - Jun 24, 2011 at 9:51 AM

      There are a lot of good ways to run smack on a player, opposing fans, or anyone really.

      But Age smack is by far the lamest. Time waits for no man.

  4. mvpolamalu - Jun 24, 2011 at 7:44 AM

    I love how I drafted this guy over jered weaver in fantasy baseball

  5. purdueman - Jun 24, 2011 at 8:07 AM

    I don’t buy this story at all. Oswalt is a ring chaser, a slacker and a prima donna. He’s the “new” Andy Pettitte who simply wants to get paid handsomely for phoning in the regular season while waiting to chase a ring in the playoffs.

    I don’t wish a supposedly career ending/limiting injury on anyone not named Barroid, but if that comes to pass it couldn’t happen to a better biggest jerk since Roger Clemens lied to Congress, took his ball and went home!

    • phukyouk - Jun 24, 2011 at 9:31 AM

      RING! RING! Psst… Stupid is calling.. its for you.

      • purdueman - Jun 24, 2011 at 2:39 PM

        How many championship sports rings so you have, dummy? Oh, that’s what I thought… the same number as King James and Ray Oswalt! Thanks for playing!

    • sportsdrenched - Jun 24, 2011 at 9:39 AM

      A “Ring Chaser” gee, what a terrible thing to call someone. I would hope anyone playing in professional (or college) sports is a ring chaser.

      From his statements, and his leave of absence from the team earlier in the year, He sounds disinterested, and tired.

      • Jonny 5 - Jun 24, 2011 at 10:30 AM

        “From his statements, and his leave of absence from the team earlier in the year, He sounds disinterested, and tired.”

        I’ve thought that since just before his leave of absence. He just doesn’t seem to care if he can pitch or not. It’s as if he’s already accepted he’s retiring and just hopes to finish his last season asap.

      • purdueman - Jun 24, 2011 at 2:41 PM

        True. Like Pettitte and Clemens before him, he just wants to collect big checks for doing the bare minimum during the season while waiting for the playoffs to begin.

        That’s not exactly what I’d call “the heart of a champion”.

    • Utley's Hair - Jun 24, 2011 at 12:30 PM

      Did Oswalt kick your cat or something?

      • purdueman - Jun 24, 2011 at 2:46 PM

        No, thank God I’m not one of those people who loves cats! Cats are for drop kicking and keeping the local coyote population fed around here.

        It’s just that I can’t stand guys making the kind of jack Oswalt is being total primma donna horse’s asses.

        When Houston first broached traded Oswalt, they had to first confer with him because he had a no trade clause in his contract.

        So what’s the first words out of his mouth: “I won’t go to the American League, I won’t go to this club, I won’t go to that club, I won’t go to this other club, I won’t go without these added perks, I won’t go without a big contract extension, blah, blah, blah!”.

        Hey, if someone’s paying me that kind of money, I’ll go wherever you want to send me, including Philadelphia, which from my extensive travel experiences is the real true arm-pit of the United States.

        Oswalt is just a jerk; simple as that.

      • Utley's Hair - Jun 24, 2011 at 3:00 PM

        If you had any control over where they send you without taking any hit on what you’re paid, you’d do the same thing—and don’t even try to say otherwise. Especially after getting nowhere with the old team, and your career is essentially wrapping up.

        But I’m not going to get into how dead-a$$ wrong you are about Philly.

    • jeffro33 - Jun 24, 2011 at 3:19 PM

      You couldn’t be more wrong about Roy Oswalt…

      No-trade clauses are for family-men who are cognizant about their families/kids being uprooted, and for players that love and are comfortable in a particular locale. If you have an issue with this, have it with the team that issues it and not the player than demands it, bc in most cases the player has earned it.

      Also, if you don’t remember clearly, Roy had to be convinced on multiple occasions to accept the trade to Philly (you know, the team chasing the ring)… He would have been perfectly fine toiling on a rotting Astros team. At first he demanded that his $16 million option be picked up before he came to Philly, but then he backed off of it and approved the deal. A prima-donna would have stood on his option being picked up.

      Philadelphia is an armpit? Look up ‘best MLB ballparks to watch a game’…. Philly is top 3 everywhere.

      • purdueman - Jun 24, 2011 at 4:50 PM

        As someone who has traveled most of my career for a living, I’ve spent a lot of time in virtually all of the professional sports team host cities in the country for extended periods of time, and all of Philly from downtown to Wilmingham is just one big depressing dirty slum, save for the island surrounded by the interstate that’s home to all of Philly’s pro sports teams.

        I’ve been to Philly’s new yard, and it indeed is very nice, but it’s also not a part of town I’d never want to break down in late at night on my way home either.

      • purdueman - Jun 24, 2011 at 4:57 PM

        jeff…. what a bunch of crapola! Any professional athlete who chooses professional baseball as a career accepts that facts that: a) You’re going to be on the move a lot throughout your career; and b) if/when you get married and/or start a family, you also accept that as part of your profession for seven months out of the year (and another month for guys on teams that go deep into the playoffs), you will be gone away from home 50% or the time. That’s reality.

        Another reality is that if you are even average, the ridiculous amount of money that you can earn in a short period of time can set you up for life to live with your family full time for DECADES after you are through playing.

        So please… I’ve got the world’s smallest violin playing between my thumb and my index finger for poor old Roy being separated from his family by pitching in Philadelphia. I have to go now, because I’m getting all choked up and need to go find a hankie!!!

  6. bleedgreen - Jun 24, 2011 at 8:26 AM

    Heres my main problem. If his back has been that injured for such a long time, why did A) The Phillies let him pitch, B) He allow them to let him pitch? If he was in that much pain since pitch 1 last night and previous, why did he start? Why not just grab Kendrick to begin with? Seems like he’s either been lying about his back, in denial about his back, or its just not as bad as he’s letting on.

    • danberman4 - Jun 25, 2011 at 11:16 AM

      Because it’s a chronic problem. It sounds like there’s no easy or any fix for it. So you keep pitching till you can’t anymore.

  7. thefalcon123 - Jun 24, 2011 at 9:28 AM

    It would a damn shame if this was it for Oswalt. He was putting up a borderline hall of fame career (thought would have looked far more impressive if he hadn’t had an anemic Astros offense behind him the past few years). In 11 seasons, he started 30+ games 9 times, posted an ERA+ over 120 8 times, and put up a 45.8 WAR. Since he last pitched fewer than 30 games in 2003, maybe a DL stint will do some good. I hope!

    • seeingwhatsticks - Jun 26, 2011 at 4:02 PM

      Oswalt spent just as many years benefiting from a good Astros offense as he did suffering from a bad one.

  8. FC - Jun 24, 2011 at 9:56 AM

    Probably the best scenario for Oz is a 60 day DL-stint to mend his back enough and come back in September. I don’t think he’s playing in 2012.

  9. spudchukar - Jun 24, 2011 at 11:28 AM

    Maybe because he was an Astro, and therefore pitched against St. Louis many times, I have developed a greater appreciation for his talent than those in Philadelphia, but I always saw a warrior, who is a dynamite competitor, and hardly deserves the disinterested/selfish criticism he is receiving here. My guess is that he has pitched through similar pain for some time, that the pain in chronic, and that he fears the damage he has inflicted upon his back could be permanent. Go ahead and dis on him if you choose. But I will always remember him as one tough cookie, and he sure would be worth a gamble for a stretch run.

    • Utley's Hair - Jun 24, 2011 at 12:01 PM

      I wholeheartedly want to see the guy come back and prove all the naysayers wrong—I’ve always liked him, albeit from a different division.

      However, I’m all about playing through pain and everything, but if you are playing through so much pain that it is thoroughly sandbagging your game—and the team on your day to pitch/play—then you need to step back and determine whether a bit of down time would be beneficial. Who knows if that would have affected the way Chuck-n-Rube handled staffing?

      Roy, take a break and heal up, ’cause a horse with a bad back isn’t really all that useful to the rest of the team.

    • cintiphil - Jun 24, 2011 at 12:07 PM

      You are right on with your comment. This guy is a tough competitor who gave the Reds fits in Houston. The Reds seemed to never beat him, although they probably did in the past. There was no one who competed better than he, and for his size and injury problems he was an outstanding pitcher. And, how about all of those guys who signed with the Yanks (many) and Phils (Lee) and Boston (several) and St. Louis (Holiday)? Aren’t they all “ring” chasers? Are they just all money guys who want to make lots of money? Oswalt is no different than the rest.

  10. foreverchipper10 - Jun 24, 2011 at 2:27 PM

    I have always loved Oswalt and would hate to see his career end even though it would benefit my Braves from not seeing him. Regardless, I feel he has always been undervalued and underappreciated until being traded to Philly. Hopefully he won’t go out this way.

  11. purdueman - Jun 24, 2011 at 2:49 PM

    The beauty about such injuries as a strained oblique muscle or a bad back is that they are virtually impossible to verify, much less prove. In other words, these are two injuries that are the quickest way for a paid vacation to the DL for a player who clearly has shown that he’s pretty much dis-interested in the regular season.

    • Utley's Hair - Jun 24, 2011 at 3:01 PM

      Great…you hate Oswalt for reasons only justifiable to you. Get over it and move on.

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