"I knew it had to be one of us," the veteran righthander said yesterday, less than 24 hours after making his outfield debut in the Phillies' marathon 4-2 loss to the Astros. "At first, they were debating on going to first or the outfield, but [Raul] Ibanez said he could play first, and I'd rather play outfield."
He did not stretch. He did not think. Ibanez moved to first base, and Oswalt trotted out to leftfield to replace him. After a few warmup throws, Shane Victorino approached him.
"Shane actually walked over there and said, 'If there is a high fly ball, do you want me to come catch it and throw it?' " Oswalt said.
He rejected the offer.
"That's what I've been wanting to do forever, is throw somebody out at the plate," Oswalt said. "I was hoping it would be fairly deep so I could show the outfielders, this is how you throw it home."
His former Astros teammates never gave him the opportunity. But they did target him, swinging at David Herndon's sinkers with the obvious intention of sending the ball to leftfield. The first batter, Jason Castro, succeeded, lofting a fly ball directly toward him. Oswalt, in perfect position, gloved it for the first out of the 15th. The crowd erupted.
"It's just a fly ball," Oswalt said. "Everybody makes a big deal out of a fly ball in the outfield, but we catch 50, 60 a day in BP, every day for 162 games, for 10 years. That's a lot of fly balls."
But after he caught that fly ball, his face burst into a grin.
"The fans were going crazy, and I was just kind of out of my element," said Oswalt, still grinning 1 day later.
Dubee and Manuel said they decided on Oswalt because they felt he could run a little bit better than their other option, fellow starter Joe Blanton. Manuel said he was never concerned about his newly acquired righthander spraining an ankle or straining a rotator cuff.
"I never think of someone getting hurt," Manuel said. "You can say anything you want to. He's your star player. He's this, he's that. He can get hurt walking across the street. He can get hurt walking to his car. He can get hurt getting out of bed."
Oswalt certainly wasn't worried.
"I probably haven't had that much adrenaline since I got called up," he said.
One other ball was hit in his direction, a slicing fly that ended up in the seats.
"I thought I had plenty of range," he said. "I was trying to get that ball in the stands. I thought about diving in the stands for that foul ball."
Oswalt fared slightly worse at the plate. With a runner on first and the Phillies trailing 4-2 in the bottom of the 16th, the Astros intentionally walked Chase Utley to get to their former ace.
"I just thought he was going to start me off with a breaking pitch, because I thought he would think I was trying to ambush him first pitch," Oswalt said of Astros righty Jeff Fulchino. "He threw a fastball right there, and I should have swung, but I was sitting on a breaking pitch. After that, it was just trying to survive, hit a ball in play somewhere."
Oswalt ended the game by grounding out. But he trotted off the field with one of the more memorable experiences of his storied career.
"You play 10 years in the big leagues, and you go to the mound every time when you play," he said. "To go out in that field, it's different, for sure. It's a whole different feel."