Encouraging Signs in Roy Oswalt’s Return

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The end of a winning streak is never fun, even when it was as prodigious a winning streak as the one the Phillies rode until Sunday's loss to the Giants. 

Because Roy Oswalt made his return to action after more than a month on the shelf with back problems and allowed 12 hits to a light-hitting San Francisco offense, it would seem like Sunday was a double disaster. The outcome was obviously not what anyone desired from team or player, but there were some good signs from Oswalt.

The 12 hits were a lot, tied for the most he's allowed in his career, but Oswalt actually made more hitters miss on Sunday than he did before he went on the disabled list. He generated 11 swing-and-misses in 93 pitches, or nearly 12 percent, which is markedly better than he's done for the season as a whole. Some of that has to do with the Giants being a poor hitting team, to be sure, but there was definitely some late life on Oswalt's stuff that wasn't there in June.

There was also more early life than there was before the trip to the disabled list. Oswalt's fastball touched 93 and averaged 91.4 on the pitch over the course of the day. That's down from what he was able to do back in April, but it is also better than what he posted in his last outing on June 23rd against the Cardinals.

It wasn't all roses and puppies. As you'd expect after a long layoff, Oswalt's command and control weren't quite where you'd like them to be. He was over the middle of the plate too often and offenses better than San Francisco would probably do more with those pitches than bloop them meekly into the outfield.

That issue isn't all that worrisome, however. His precision should get better with more innings under his belt and the return of his velocity will make up for some of the mistakes he makes in terms of location. What's more, the Phillies are in such a comfortable place in the standings that there's plenty of rope for Oswalt to use up as he tries to pitch his way back into form.

The return of the velocity is probably the biggest takeaway. Given where he was when he went on the DL and the lingering nature of back problems, it would have been a major red flag if he returned without that life on his fastball.

It was there, though, and that makes Sunday a good first step back for Oswalt.

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