|Roy Oswalt isn’t walking through that door, and Bobby Valentine is OK with that||02.23.12 at 3:32 pm ET|
FORT MYERS, Fla. — According to multiple reports, Roy Oswalt‘s agent Bob Garber suggested that the 34-year-old right-hander, after not receiving an offer to his liking this winter, is comfortable sitting out until the middle of the season before looking for a deal with a contender.
The Red Sox had been interested in Oswalt as a possible free-agent signing throughout the offseason, particularly when he sought just a one-year deal. Had the Sox signed him, he would have given addition definition to a rotation that right now features Jon Lester, Josh Beckett and Clay Buchholz in the first three spots but openings in the fourth and fifth spots.
Sox manager Bobby Valentine acknowledged that while there would have been some greater security to be gleaned by signing the veteran, that Oswalt comes with his own question marks after pitching just 139 innings (his fewest since 2003) due to back woes last season. That being the case, Valentine remained comfortable with the idea of having a large group of potential starters (Daniel Bard, Alfredo Aceves, Carlos Silva, Vicente Padilla, Aaron Cook, Felix Doubront, Andrew Miller) compete for the final two spots in the rotation.
“I would just think that history is a great teacher. Recent history showed me that the team that won our division last year had no fourth and fifth starter coming into spring training last year,” Valentine said, referring to a 2011 Yankees team that had an open spring training competition for the back of the rotation that yielded Bartolo Colon and Freddy Garcia, both of whom proved year-long rotation mainstays. “That’s as comfortable as I am. It’s not like I’m so comfortable. Roy Oswalt, he’d be maybe more comfortable, but I wouldn’t be totally comfortable. What did he pitch,  innings last year?”
The Sox had remained interested in Oswalt throughout the offseason, and had a standing one-year offer on the table to him. The 34-year-old was 9-10 with a 3.69 ERA, 6.0 strikeouts and 2.1 walks per nine innings in 2011, a season in which he was limited to 23 starts by back woes.
According to a major league source, the Red Sox had not heard from the pitcher in recent days leading up to an announcement, and so the team had been operating on the assumption that it would not sign the three-time All-Star. In his career, Oswalt is 159-93 with a 3.21 ERA in 11 seasons. Oswalt ranks fourth among active pitchers in career ERA and 10th in wins.
– Aceves pitched 114 innings last year, making 55 appearances — 51 in relief, and four as a starter. Asked for his initial impressions of the right hander who served in a long relief role that has rarely been seen in recent years, Valentine suggested that the 29-year-old was immensely valuable out of the bullpen last year but that he is also capable of starting.
“He can do either/or,” Valentine said of Aceves. “We’ll see how that plays out and see how his health plays out. He was very healthy last year, he looks in great shape right now. He’s a very determined pitcher, an athlete, you all know him better than I do. I guess I’m really getting to know him. Those innings, I mean,  valuable innings is pretty valuable when they are in meaningful ballgames.”
– Daisuke Matsuzaka had what Valentine described as a surprisingly strong bullpen session given where the right-hander is in his recovery from Tommy John surgery.
“Daisuke, that was the best bullpen session he had,” said Valentine. “He had a good finish to his pitches and his delivery. It was pretty good actually for a guy that’s supposedly as far behind as he is, that was a pretty good pen.
“I probably would say I was surprised. I wanted to walk away as a matter of fact,” added Valentine. “I didn’t want to push it. Usually, guys hit a thing when they’re coming back. They regress a little and he hasn’t had any of that yet and I don’t want to be around if and when it happens. I don’t want it to be my fault.”
– Asked to identify pitchers in the mix for a rotation spot who have surprised him, Valentine mentioned left-hander Andrew Miller.
“I’ve been a little surprised with Andrew Miller,” said Valentine. “(Pitching coach) Bobby McClure has approached him about some little adjustments that he has received well and it’s translated into the bullpen and we’ll see how it goes from there.”
As detailed here, McClure has been working with Miller on his direction towards home plate. McClure wants the pitcher to focus on getting a stride that is more in line with the plate, something that would likely diminish the degree to which his upper and lower halves are at cross-purposes.
“The more you’re on line, the easier it is to repeat,” McClure explained. “The reason you’re not on line is you get on your toe and push yourself that way, so we’re going to the exact cause first – what’s causing it? He seems to understand. [In a Sunday bullpen session] he did well at it – very well. Just blew me away. He was maybe this far across his body – a footstep, maybe, which is a big improvement. It’s not easy to do.”
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