Quick, what do Livan Hernandez, Glendon Rusch, Jamie Moyer, Kevin Millwood, Jon Garland and now Roy Oswalt all have in common?
They all represent a long line from a strange tradition that the Colorado Rockies have adopted in recent years. In their seemingly endless struggle to find an answer to their pitching woes, Colorado has started acquiring one veteran castoff after another.
This experiment reached embarrassing lows last season when the Rockies were running out the 49-year old Moyer to essentially throw batting practice for the opposing team. This year, the Rockies went to the well again and came back with Garland and Oswalt. While the moves weren’t nearly as desperate as the Moyer signing, the pitchers have looked like they are pretty much out of gas. Garland had about three good starts before National League hitters started teeing off on him, and he was unceremoniously dumped by the team in early June. However, the team filled their quota of old veteran starting pitchers by bringing up Oswalt on July 20th.
There is no denying that Oswalt has had a tremendous career. No pitcher lasts 13 seasons in the major leagues without some serious results, but the bottom line is that all signs point to Oswalt being at the end of his rope. The last time that he was pitching like the guy who was an All-Star in Houston was in 2011 as a member of the Philadelphia Phillies. But even then, Oswalt had slipped from “All-Star” to merely “pretty good”. 2012 showed even more proof that Oswalt was on the decline, as his numbers regressed even further. His ERA swelled to 5.80 and he looked like, for all intents and purposes, a guy who needed to hang it up.
And yet here we are. The Rockies ran Oswalt out for his second start in a Colorado uniform, and he got hit hard for the second time. In eleven innings, he has already allowed nine runs.
Roy Oswalt is not going to turn it around. The man had a good career, but the idea that he’s going to suddenly start pitching like he did five years ago is delusional. The team could justify giving him more time if there was no reasonable replacement option, but Drew Pomeranz is one of the team’s top pitching prospects and is 8-1 in Triple-A. Pomeranz was the top piece in one of the biggest trades in team history, yet the Rockies appear content to let him spend the year in Colorado Springs even though there is nothing left for him to learn there.
Pomeranz needs to get his opportunity, and every start Oswalt gets in the major leagues is taking away another opportunity from Pomeranz. The Rockies aren’t supposed to be contenders realistically, and even if they are competing, Oswalt doesn’t give them any better of a shot to reach the playoffs than Pomeranz does.
The Rockies have a nasty reputation for struggling to raise their pitchers into productive major leaguers. They will never overcome that stigma that looms over their franchise if they never give their pitchers a chance to develop.