By STEPHEN HAWKINS, Associated Press
ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — Roy Oswalt expects he'll need only four starts in the minors before joining the Texas Rangers.
"For the last six weeks I've been throwing bullpens every other day. I wanted to make sure I had plenty of throwing in before I stepped out on the field," the veteran right-hander said Wednesday on a conference call. "My arm feels great. My body feels great."
Oswalt agreed to a minor league deal with the AL West-leading Rangers and is scheduled to make his first start for Triple-A Round Rock on Saturday.
The 34-year-old, who pitched 11 major league seasons with Houston and Philadelphia, said the Los Angeles Dodgers were among other teams interested in signing him.
But his relationship with Rangers president Nolan Ryan, pitching coach Mike Maddux and bench coach Jackie Moore played a big part in his decision, along with playing close to his home in Mississippi.
"A lot of it was Nolan, he pretty much started my career from the Houston Astros in Double-A. I've got a lot of respect for Nolan, kind of an idol of mine," Oswalt said. "I love Texas. I got to play there for 9 1/2 years with the Astros ... just a great place."
While playing for Round Rock in 2000 — when the club was Houston's Double-A affiliate — Ryan was involved in team ownership, Moore was the manager and Maddux the pitching coach.
In his major league career with Houston (2001-10) and Philadelphia (2010-11), Oswalt has a 159-93 record with a 3.21 ERA in 339 career games.
He had two stints on the disabled list last season because of lower back inflammation, but the Rangers don't have significant concerns about that since Oswalt's back doctor also has worked with the team. He went 9-10 with a 3.69 ERA in 23 starts for the Phillies last season, the 139 innings pitched his fewest since 2003.
"This year, I feel great. Throwing a lot trying to get my arm in shape," he said. "Hoping to throw three or four innings the first game and see where I'm at. I've been doing this 11 years. I know my body, I know where I'm at. ... I feel as healthy as ever."
Oswalt is scheduled to be in Arlington on Thursday for his physical. Assuming all goes well, he will then go to Round Rock.
Maddux expects Oswalt to pitch two or three innings Saturday night, then build from there.
"It's basically a spring training, only it's (every) five days instead of six," Maddux said. "Bump up your pitch count 15-20 pitches per outing over what you did last time."
Oswalt said he likes the Dallas area and the players on the Rangers' roster. He said he talked with Cliff Lee, his teammate last year in Philadelphia after Lee helped lead Texas to the 2010 World Series, about the great clubhouse atmosphere.
For Maddux, there is no concern about Oswalt getting started this late in the season. He actually sees a big benefit.
"You get a guy almost midseason that comes in pretty fresh, that could be a pretty good boost," Maddux said. "You go through those dog days in August, it will be like his May, so he should be pretty fresh the rest of the season."
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