Yesterday, it was back to baseball for Oswalt, who returned in time to throw a bullpen session and join his teammates for their pregame stretch. The Phillies hope he will be ready to start against the Braves tomorrow, when the other four starters will be on short rest. Pitching coach Rich Dubee said a lot depends on how Oswalt responds to his bullpen session, his first work since April 26. That night, he allowed five runs in three innings of a 7-5 loss in Arizona. It was also the night a strong storm system roared through Choctaw County, Miss., where his three daughters were staying with his wife's parents.
The National Weather Service reported that a milewide tornado measuring from F-2 to F-3 touched down four times between 2:15 and 2:45 a.m. The Oswalts' children and their grandparents rode out the tornado in their storm shelter. None of the family was hurt, although five deaths were reported in the county. Oswalt's house was not damaged, but his in-laws' house suffered some roof damage, and property damage was significant across the county. Oswalt said he spent much of the week clearing fallen trees with his excavator and bulldozer.
"The town next to us is completely gone," said Oswalt, whose parents' house was destroyed by a tornado last April. "It went right through the high school and the town. There's nothing left. But the good thing was, on our family's side, there wasn't any damage to anybody. Just a lot of cleanup."
Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said the team never hesitated when Oswalt asked for time off.
The Phillies will likely ask Oswalt to give them whatever he can tomorrow, since they have few other options. Righthander Kyle Kendrick should be available for several innings of relief, but none of the four other starters will be on full rest. Dubee said yesterday Oswalt was a little "rusty" during his session, which is to be expected after 8 days of picking up everything except a baseball.
Until yesterday, catcher Carlos Ruiz had been progressing steadily toward a return. But after swinging a bat in the cage Wednesday, his back did not respond as the Phillies had hoped.
"He was going real good, and then he took some BP and took some swings, and he didn't feel real good afterward," Amaro said.
Amaro said yesterday a stint on the disabled list is possible. The Phillies can backdate the stay a maximum of 10 days. Ruiz last played in a game on April 27.
Utley to Florida
Chase Utley's knee has responded well to the two simulated games he participated in this week. The next step will likely see him head to extended spring training in Clearwater, Fla., possibly as soon as this weekend.
"We haven't made any final decisions," Amaro said.
The Phillies hope to have Utley back by the end of the month. Because he has not played in any spring-training or regular-season games, he likely will need to gain his timing against live pitching.
"We haven't set any schedules yet," Amaro said. "I would assume it will be a slow progression." *