But Oswalt, pitching competitively for the first time in 16 days, lacked zip on his fastball. Ruiz said it was a struggle for Oswalt early without life and location on the fastball. One scout concurred, saying Oswalt hovered between 88 and 90 m.p.h. on the radar gun, topping out at 92. He typically averages 93 m.p.h.
Oswalt said nothing. He left the ballpark before speaking to reporters.
"It was a struggle in the first couple of innings," Ruiz said.
The Phillies were hoping to slot Oswalt right into the rotation on regular rest for Tuesday's series finale against St. Louis. That may be unrealistic without his usual fastball.
"That's a big pitch for him," Ruiz said. "When he's on, he's not afraid to throw a fastball. He'll throw it in any count. Today was a little different."
Oswalt, who missed time with a bad back and dealing with family matters in tornado-ravaged Mississippi, allowed three runs in five innings (73 pitches) and struck out five Palm Beach Cardinals. The damage was limited because he could throw his off-speed stuff with proficiency against inexperienced hitters. But against major-leaguers, he will need his fastball, a pitch he has thrown 64.7 percent of the time in his career, according to Fangraphs.com.
The news was not all bad in the 7-5 Clearwater win. Ruiz went 1 for 3 with a run scored in five innings in his first rehab game after spending two days in extended spring training. He will likely be activated Friday. (He was banking on this, having booked a morning flight to Atlanta days ago.)
"No pain," he said. "Nothing."
Utley played five innings, the first time he played the field competitively since Game 6 of the National League Championship Series last October. He did not have a ground ball hit to him.
"I felt pretty good," Utley said. "I was able to see some pitches. I slid once. I attempted to turn a double play and avoid the runner, which was good. So far, so good."
The laser of a home run came on a first-pitch fastball off Palm Beach righthander Joe Kelly, rated as the 10th-best prospect in the Cardinals' system.
"It felt good to square one up," said Utley, who also drew an eight-pitch walk.
Steve Noworyta, the Phillies' assistant director of minor-league operations, has watched Utley since he came to Florida. He has yet to see anything to deter from Utley's progress.
"I've seen him bust his tail down the line, running like he usually does," Noworyta said. "I've seen him go after balls in shallow right field like he does. You're looking for something that doesn't look right with him, and you don't see it. I think he's coming along."
Utley said he planned to play again Friday and spend more than five innings in the field. Beyond that, he is unsure of what's next.
"I still think there's a little bit more time," Utley said. "I have to work my way back into that. I have to be able to play nine innings before I get up to the big leagues."
For a day, Utley, Ruiz, and Oswalt were minor-leaguers. They were still paid big-league money, though, and treated their teammates to a catered spread from the fancy Island Way Grill after the game.
On Friday, life in the minors goes on. It's '70s Night, and fans dressed in disco attire will be able to buy 75-cent tickets. Ruiz will be gone. As for Utley and Oswalt, hurdles remain.
Roy Oswalt: 5 IP, 7H, 3 R, 3 ER, 1 BB, 5 K
Chase Utley: 1 for 2, solo home run, 2 runs scored
Carlos Ruiz: 1 for 3, 1 run scored
Contact staff writer Matt Gelb
at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/magelb