Oswalt becomes safety valve

The Phillies never closed the door on Roy Oswalt this winter, but were never seriously involved. (David Maialetti/Staff file photo)

CLEARWATER, Fla. — Roy Oswalt may have had interest in a return to the Phillies, but it wasn't mutual. At least not yet.

With Oswalt's decision to "evaluate his options" and an intention to pitch for a contending team sometime this season, the Phillies theoretically have a fallback plan if needed. It's not so far-fetched: Think Pedro Martinez in 2009.

Of course, a lot of things would need to happen to facilitate this scenario. First, the Phillies would require a need for Oswalt. At this point, an injury to one of the current starters would be the most plausible situation.

Next, Oswalt would have to prove he's in decent pitching shape. His agent, Bob Garber, said Oswalt plans to stay in shape by throwing regularly in Mississippi. But Oswalt has chronic back problems and not going through the typical routine of a normal spring training could make him more suseptible to injury in a midseason return.

And then there's the whole money issue, which is apparently paramount to Oswalt's thinking. He reportedly turned down a $10 million offer from Detroit and drew serious interest from Boston and St. Louis.

Lance Berkman, a longtime teammate and friend of Oswalt's said he's spoken often to the pitcher this winter.

"To me, it's strictly a money thing," Berkman told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "The Cardinals have budgetary concerns and they could only go to a certain point. And that wasn't what Roy was looking for. That wasn't enough to lure him out of Mississippi."

The Phillies never closed the door on Oswalt this winter, but were never seriously involved because of the sticker price. If the team could find a taker for a chunk of Joe Blanton's $8.5 million salary, then the odds of a reunion increase. But Blanton must prove his health and even then, it's unlikely any acquiring team will want to absorb most of Blanton's salary.

Plus, Oswalt's desire to keep pitching is still in question. He is said to prefer a job in Texas or St. Louis. He didn't dislike his time in Philadelphia, but mostly he was aloof.

Now, the rest of the baseball world waits to see how long Oswalt sticks to this strategy.

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