DENVER -- The Four Aces' storyline that dominated spring training in Clearwater never really carried into the regular season for the Phillies.
Once Roy Oswalt's back started barking in April, the veteran righthander just could not match the pristine work being provided by Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels, Cliff Lee or even Vance Worley for that matter.
Now, after six weeks on the disabled list and two injections to relieve the pain caused by a bulging disc in his back, Oswalt will return from the disabled list this weekend in San Francisco. Oswalt said Wednesday that he will pitch Sunday against the Giants.
As expected, he will replace Kyle Kendrick in the rotation.
"I'm ready to get back out there," Oswalt said. "I'm tired of watching. That's for sure."
Oswalt, 4-6 with a 3.79 ERA, last pitched June 23 in St. Louis, but left that start after two innings when the pain became unbearable.
What happens in the final two months could determine Oswalt's future with the Phillies. The team has a $16 million option with a $2 million buyout on Oswalt for next season. It would be hard to imagine that they'd pick that up without seeing glimpses of the dominant pitcher that Oswalt was after joining the Phillies last year at the trade deadline.
"The biggest thing right now is to win this year," Oswalt said. "Other than that, I haven't really thought about my contract. I was just trying to think about getting back."
Oswalt, 33, also mentioned retirement during spring training, but he said those thoughts also are on the backburner as he attempts to return from the back injury.
"I don't want to put the cart before the horse," Oswalt said. "My focus right now is to get back to pitching. I haven't thought about what I'm going to do."
Oswalt made two rehab starts at triple-A Lehigh Valley in preparation for Sunday's outing and admitted that it could take some time before he's at the top of his game.
"It's going to take me a little bit to get back into the routine," he said. "I feel healthy and I don't have any pain. I'll go out there and try to get on a roll."
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