Oswalt savors his Astros memories
After 10 years in Houston, ace opens new chapter of career
HOUSTON -- Roy Oswalt spent some time at an empty Minute Maid Park on Thursday afternoon, sifting through his locker to decide what belongings to bring with him as he begins a new chapter in his life and his career while leaving behind fond memories of a decade with the Astros.
Oswalt said he had no regrets as he prepared to fly to Washington, D.C., where he's scheduled to start Friday for the Phillies against the Washington Nationals. Oswalt cut his teeth in the Astros organization and said he'll always have fond memories of Houston.
"I think probably the toughest part was packing up my locker, for sure, knowing I started here and have to leave now," Oswalt said. "Just like I said, it's going to be good for the organization, and I think it will be good for me, too. The organization has been great to me, and I hope they get back in it and get back to the playoffs real soon."
Oswalt, one of the greatest pitchers to wear an Astros uniform, was dealt to the Phillies on Thursday after winning 143 games -- one shy of the franchise record -- in a little more than 10 years in an Astros uniform. He posted back-to-back 20-game seasons in 2004-05 and won perhaps the biggest game in franchise history when he beat the Cardinals in Game 6 of the '05 National League Championship Series.
It was that thirst and desire to pitch important games in September and October that had Oswalt ecstatic to be going to the Phillies, who are in contention in the NL East.
"It's exciting, for sure," he said. "I think it works out for both of us. Houston's getting good prospects and another pitcher, and I'm getting to go to a great team. I'm happy for both sides. From the very beginning, I said I wouldn't accept it unless it worked out for both of us, and I think it worked out."
Oswalt, 32, told the Astros in May he wanted to be traded to a contender and spent the next two months fielding questions about trade rumors. The Astros were finally able to swing a deal, acquiring pitcher J.A. Happ and two Minor Leaguers -- one of whom was later dealt to Toronto for first-base prospect Brett Wallace -- for Oswalt and $11 million in cash.
Oswalt is owed about $5 million more this year and is due to make $16 million next season in the last year of his contract. Oswalt's 2012 option is now a mutual option, with a $2 million buyout.
"It was definitely a long time in the making," Oswalt's agent, Bob Garber said. "I know that the Astros were working hard to make a trade and we had talked to the Astros about a number of teams, and the Phillies were always one of them. Once Roy got the notice from the Astros that it was the Phillies, he slept on it last night and gave myself and Barry Meister, who was involved in the deal, some direction to get it done.
"He didn't want to leave Houston. The point is Houston has been his home in professional baseball, and the organization and the fans have treated him great."
When the deal was done, Oswalt called longtime teammate Lance Berkman, who along with Wandy Rodriguez are the only remaining players from the 2005 World Series team, and said his goodbyes. He telephoned former teammate Brad Lidge on Thursday night to gauge the atmosphere in Philadelphia.
The two-time defending NL champion Phillies are 54-46 and trail the Braves by 3 1/2 games in the NL East. By adding Oswalt, Philly bolstered a pitching staff, which boasts Roy Halladay, that's ranked seventh in the NL with a 3.99 ERA.
"You've pretty much got an All-Star at every position," Oswalt said. "They have a real good team as far as a union. I talked to Brad Lidge last night about the clubhouse and he likes it a lot up there with guys like Jimmy Rollins and Shane Victorino and some other great guys. Overall, it came down to Houston getting something for me, and I was getting to go to a contender."
Oswalt, 32, was drafted in the 23rd round by the Astros in 1996 and reached the Majors five years later, going 14-3 in his rookie season. He posted back-to-back 20-wins seasons in 2004 and '05 to lead the Astros to the NLCS in '04 and the World Series in '05. Oswalt held the Cardinals to one run and five hits in seven innings to win Game 6 of the '05 NLCS en route to being named the NLCS Most Valuable Player.
He was 6-12 with a 3.42 ERA this year and had some of the worst run support in the league, which played into his decision to request a trade.
"I wish the best for the organization," Oswalt said. "The fans have been behind me for 10 years. There are no hard feelings on my side. Houston has done everything I've asked, and I've done everything they've asked of me. I'm hoping to have a chance to pitch in the playoffs and the World Series. I'm hoping to get back there and experience again what we did in '05."
Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.