Oswalt must get with program or get going

The Texas Rangers haven’t been afraid to take a flyer on veteran pitchers over the past few years.

There was the Rich Harden experience gone bad in 2010. And, of course, the ill-fated attempt last year to resurrect the career of Brandon Webb.

The Rangers have lived and learned with veteran starters and footed the bill when they didn’t work out. It might be time to do it again with right-hander Roy Oswalt.

If Oswalt doesn’t want to pitch in relief for the Rangers, then he shouldn’t be pitching at all.

The Rangers are paying him more than $4 million to pitch, not to pitch when he feels like it.

Having Oswalt on the team doesn’t set a good example for a club that’s been defined as much by its chemistry as for its on-field success the past two years.

Oswalt’s not fitting into that plan.

It’s one thing to not be happy with your role, which Oswalt’s made clear he’s not. It’s another thing to say no to trying to help your team win, which is apparently what he did Sunday in Kansas City when he told manager Ron Washington he couldn’t pitch a third inning of relief.

That’s not the way the clubhouse was built. Oswalt should have shown up for the Colby Lewis news conference a couple of weeks ago. He would have seen a pitcher whose eyes were bloodshot because of the tears that he had shed. Those weren’t tears of pity; those were tears of a pitcher upset because he wasn’t going to be able to help his team down the stretch.

Lewis tried to pitch with a torn flexor tendon in his right arm, putting his future at risk. Oswalt, who didn’t talk with reporters after Sunday’s game, couldn’t go after throwing 30 pitches in two innings.

The Rangers like to refer to themselves as gamers and grinders. Not wanting to go out for another inning doesn’t fit the mold.

I get that Oswalt hasn’t pitched in relief throughout his career. I get that he was pitching for the second time in three games and third time in less than a week. But Oswalt has handled the transition horribly.

Oswalt signed a contract to pitch with the Rangers. He was expected to be a member of the rotation, and he had his chance. He didn’t get the job done and he lost that chance.

Pouting about it and trying to pitch on your own terms doesn’t help the matter. And, it appears he’s a little delusional about his success with the club, as well.

“Well, I mean we’re 4-2 in the games I started. I guess I should’ve been 6-0,” Oswalt told reporters in Kansas City over the weekend. “Two bad ones and won four of them so . . . I don’t know. We’ll see how it goes.”

The Rangers are 3-2 in Oswalt’s six starts, but it had more to do with the offense than anything Oswalt did. The Rangers scored 13 runs in one of those games, with Oswalt allowing 13 hits and five runs in six innings. He allowed nine earned runs in his next start. He also had an eight-run start. Oswalt allowed 54 hits in his six starts had a 6.49 ERA before getting moved into the bullpen.

There’s a chance Oswalt is still miffed about how the move to the bullpen was handled. After trading for Ryan Dempster, Texas manager Ron Washington said Oswalt was “a pro” when he was told about the move to the bullpen. But when Oswalt came off the field later that day, he said he it was the first he heard about it.

Could the Rangers have handled it better, maybe? That depends on if you believe Oswalt’s version of what happened or the team’s.

But that doesn’t really even matter, either. Oswalt currently is the sixth man on a five-man rotation.

Scott Feldman’s been a better starter. Ryan Dempster was acquired to be the starter the Rangers need down the stretch. Matt Harrison’s an All-Star. Yu Darvish has been inconsistent but is still better than Oswalt. The same goes for Derek Holland.

All Oswalt is doing now is muddying the water. General manager Jon Daniels said that nothing’s set in stone as far as the Texas rotation goes. The past 2-1/2 months have proved that, as the Rangers have used 11 different starters since the end of May.

If Oswalt bides his time and pitches well in relief, he could be a starter again. But the way he’s handling things now isn’t helping matters.

The sample size of his relief work is very small but Oswalt’s been good in that role. Four innings, two hits, six strikeouts and no earned runs. Those are the kind of numbers that can help the team.

But if Oswalt isn’t interested in helping, the Rangers shouldn’t be interested in keeping him.

Martin Perez can come up from Triple-A to do that job. Yoshinori Tateyama, who is also in Triple-A, can give you a couple of innings, and Washington loves him because he’ll pitch whenever he’s asked.

Now isn’t that a novel concept for a major leaguer getting paid to do a job?