ST. LOUIS - Roy Oswalt is a very good starting pitcher. That's a well-duh observation, obvious from a quick glance at the stats sheet.
Brad Lidge was his Astros teammate for more than 5 years. And the Phillies closer said he's even better than the back of his baseball card.
"One thing he's done in his career, when I played with him, is that he always stepped up in big games," Lidge said yesterday as speculation continued to swirl that the Phillies are zeroing in on acquiring Oswalt to bolster their rotation. "One thing you can expect from him that's better than the numbers is that, in big games, he's even better than he normally is. Which obviously is what you want."
Lidge laughed as he recalled that Astros owner Drayton McLane offered to buy the ace righthander a tractor if he won Game 6 of the 2005 NLCS, sending Houston to its first World Series. Oswalt held the Cardinals to one run on three hits through seven innings to cash in.
"I haven't talked to him recently," Lidge said. "I talked to him in spring training. We text from time to time. I don't really need to talk to him that much to know what's going on right now. He wants to be with a team that he feels can win a championship. His career won-lost record is outstanding and I know he wants to be on a [contending] team. It would be great to have a guy like that."
Even though he requested a trade to a contender earlier this season, the 32-year-old Oswalt still has the right to veto any deal.
"I'm sure he'd be open to Philly. I'm sure he wants to be on a team that has a chance to win a championship and nothing less than that. Obviously, we're one of those teams. There are other teams that have a chance, too, but you look at our team and barring the way we've been playing recently, we're as good a bet as anybody."
After optioning righthander Kyle Kendrick to Triple A Lehigh Valley and watching 47-year-old lefthander Jamie Moyer leave his start after an inning Tuesday night, the Phillies have yet to list a starter for either Saturday's or Sunday's game against the Rockies at Citizens Bank Park.
General manager Ruben Amaro Jr., who did not make himself available yesterday, hinted that Kendrick's replacement could come from outside the organization, igniting a stampede of speculation.
Moyer flew back to Philadelphia yesterday and will be examined today. It remains likely that lefthander J.A. Happ, who has been sidelined much of the year by a forearm strain, will be recalled from the IronPigs and start one of the games against the Rockies. Some versions of the Oswalt rumor, however, have Happ included in the deal.
ESPN reported that Oswalt wants any team that trades for him to guarantee his $16 million option for 2012 as a condition of him approving the deal.
He told reporters in Chicago yesterday that he has not been contacted about waiving his no-trade clause.
"I don't know anything about it," he said at Wrigley Field. "Until [the Astros] come up to me, there's really nothing I can do. [Any trade] would have to work for both of us. If it doesn't work for both of us, no, but if it does, maybe. I'll just wait until they come up to me."
Lidge said he'd be happy to call Oswalt to urge him to accept a trade if Phillies officials asked him to.
"That would be an easy call to make," he said. "He's never going to be a guy who lays down. It doesn't matter what team he's on. Every time he goes out he's going to have a chance to go deep into a game and do some damage. I played with him for awhile and I saw it day in and day out. He's a horse out there. I know he's had some injuries here and there but nothing that's really derailed him. He'll pitch through a lot of things."
There also continues to be indications that the Phillies are at least willing to listen to offers for rightfielder Jayson Werth with the Rays, Blue Jays and Yankees among the teams being mentioned as possible fits.
Manager Charlie Manuel said he doesn't pay attention to all the scuttlebutt that invariably arises in the days leading up to the July 31 trade deadline.
"This time of year, everybody talks to everybody," he shrugged. "That's just part of it. A lot of talk. But you never know. Just like the Yankees thought they had Cliff Lee. And then they didn't have him at all.
"But I think the right pitcher could make a difference. I look at the [first-place] St. Louis Cardinals and, believe it or not, we've scored more runs than they have. It just goes to show you. Their pitching is keeping them in the game and winning for them."