All along, Roy Oswalt has been trying to look on the bright side. When his back bothered him during his start against the Marlins on April 15, he didn't think it was a big deal. When there was still stiffness during his next start at San Diego, he didn't mention it. When he was KO'd early in his next outing at Arizona, the official party line was that his back wasn't a factor.
Oswalt knew better, but, by the time that game ended, he was already gone, preparing to fly home to Mississippi after tornadoes caused extensive damage in his neighborhood.
He even tried to find the silver lining in that.
"I thought [not pitching] would help," he said yesterday.
It didn't. He still had lingering problems when he threw in the bullpen Thursday, after rejoining the team, and before last night's game, the Phillies announced he's been scratched from his start against the Braves tonight. Kyle Kendrick will get the ball instead.
Oswalt was placed on the disabled after last night's game, retroactive to April 27. Righthander Scott Mathieson was recalled from Triple A Lehigh Valley and Vance Worley will be moved to the bullpen beginning tonight.
Oswalt might soon be joined by catcher Carlos Ruiz, who hasn't played since leaving the game in Arizona on April 27 with tightness in his lower back. The Phillies have already used the DL eighth times this season and currently have five players on it.
Oswalt finally conceded he was worried about an injury that just wouldn't go away.
"A little bit," he said, when asked whether he was starting to become concerned. "I thought I'd be fine, but it kind of got to the point where it's unbearable. So a little bit of concern. It's early in the year and I don't want to have it linger to July, August.
"It hasn't really gotten any better. I could probably pitch. I can't promise anything on results. So we're going to give it a few more days and see how it feels. Maybe throw on the side [tomorrow] or Monday and see where I'm at."
Oswalt said he didn't aggravate the injury while away from the team, and he did nothing more strenuous than sit on a bulldozer.
No player likes to go on the DL. But since moves can be backdated up to 10 days, he understands that it's a sensible option.
"If I go out and try to pitch [tonight] and something happens, I've got 15 days from then. This way we can push it all the way back to Arizona and kind of use that to our advantage," he said.
"My biggest thing is, I don't want to go out there and not be 100 percent, or at least 95 percent, and be a liability. I don't want to go out and throw three, four innings and then they have to come get me."
He didn't rule out testing himself in a minor league game before coming back, but general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said the best-case scenario is that he could pitch next Friday night in Atlanta.
Kyle Kendrick has been primarily a starter throughout his career, and came into this season with a 35-24 record. Used this season as a long reliever, he has a 2.08 earned run average.
There's no doubt he'd prefer to pitch out of the rotation, but said he doesn't look at tonight as an opportunity to help make his case.
"No, I can do it," he said. "How long have I been starting for? I'm just going out there and starting a game. It's my first one of the year. I know I can do it, and I think they know. I'm excited to start. It's been a while. But I've done it before. It's nothing new."
Kendrick said he thinks he can pitch at least five innings.
Joe Blanton (impingement of right elbow) will throw on the side today. If all goes well, he should be activated in time to start against the Marlins on Monday night, which is why Vance Worley should be available out of the 'pen behind Kendrick tonight.
The rest of the story
Second baseman Chase Utley will see his first game action since last year today in Florida when he plays in an extended spring-training game, which is little more than a glorified scrimmage. He can bat several times an inning if he chooses, take an inning off, do whatever he thinks is necessary to help him recover from the right knee tendinitis that has sidelined him all season.
"We're going to try to progress him," general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said. "It's good to know he's actually going to be on the field, playing second base, swinging a bat. It's all good stuff. We've told him to do what he feels comfortable with. And as long as he's comfortable, we'll just let it play out."