CHICAGO -- There is a fourth ace and he has remained dormant until Tuesday when some four hours before the Phillies played the Cubs, Roy Oswalt picked up a baseball and stepped on a mound for the first time in 26 days.
Trade deadline? Forget about that. The most important player the Phillies could "acquire" is Oswalt.
And after throwing about 50 pitches at Wrigley Field, Oswalt was as optimistic as he's been throughout this whole ordeal.
"I actually felt great," Oswalt said. "Probably felt as good as I did in spring training."
Spring training, of course, was before Oswalt tweaked his back in an April start against Florida; before a tornado ripped through his hometown in Mississippi; before two injections in his back and weeks of inactivity.
But now there is promise. Oswalt will throw another bullpen Friday and could pitch in a minor-league game next week if all goes according to plan. A return to the majors in early August is not out of the question.
Oswalt revealed he had an injection April 28, two days after his start in Arizona that lasted three innings. He flew to Houston on his way home to help his family and received the shot.
But that one did not work as effectively as the injection he received two days before the All-Star break.
"The first one really didn't help," Oswalt said. "After I got the shot the first time, it never went away. I don't know if it didn't hit the right spot or what. This one, within five days after the shot, I had no pain in my legs."
And now Oswalt can actually do work in between starts, something he had not done with the bad back.
"That's what is encouraging about the whole thing," he said. "I feel like I could still go out and compete, pitch through pain, but at least I can get myself ready to pitch now. I did a little workout yesterday. I responded well today."
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