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ND ROCK, Texas -- In his first start since signing with the Rangers, Roy Oswalt needed to face a couple batters before getting in a rhythm for the Triple-A Round Rock Express on Saturday.
"I told the pitching coach that I'd work out of a jam in the first inning, see how that played out," Oswalt joked after his two-inning start.
With nobody out in the first inning, Oswalt worked out of a bases-loaded jam by striking out Jeff Baisley on three pitches and inducing a first-pitch, inning-ending double play from Luis Cruz. A leadoff single in the second didn't keep Oswalt from throwing his second straight 17-pitch scoreless inning.
"It probably wasn't the best, but that was about where I want to be at as far as velocity and stamina," Oswalt said. "[Working out of a jam] makes you focus a little bit more instead of going 1-2-3 pretty quick. You don't get quite as much work in as far as throwing quality pitches. When you get guys on, you have to throw quality pitches a lot."
Oswalt threw 34 pitches in Triple-A Round Rock's 3-2 win over Albuquerque on Saturday night, 21 of them strikes, while giving up three hits, striking out one and walking one. It was his first start in an Express uniform since 2000, when the team was the Astros' Double-A affiliate.
"Twelve years ago, I was a lot younger," Oswalt said.
Oswalt's fastball was consistently clocked in the low 90s, with his fastest pitch checking in at 94 mph. His changeup stayed in the low 80s, while his curveball was thrown in the upper 60s.
"That's where I thought I would be at, in the low 90s. I'm one or two clicks off from where I usually throw, around 93 mph, so I'm getting pretty close," Oswalt said. "Changeup was pretty good. One stayed in the zone, guy hit a line drive to third base. But the other ones were pretty good."
Oswalt, who had hoped to throw 50 pitches in three or four innings of his first Minor League start, said he threw 30 additional pitches in the bullpen after leaving the game. Although he believes that he'll be limited to 50 pitches in his second start with Triple-A Round Rock next Friday, Oswalt wants to throw 65. By the time he makes his fourth and final start for the Express, Oswalt wants to throw 100 pitches.
"I'm going to try to accelerate it a little bit," Oswalt said of the team's plan for him in the Minor Leagues. "They kind of set pitch counts on different nights, but I'm going to see if we can bump it up a little bit."
Oswalt fired two straight strikes to begin the night before Isotopes leadoff batter Trent Oeltjen singled to left. Aaron Miles, who has played 932 games in the Major Leagues with five different teams, drew a five-pitch walk. Then, Josh Fields' infield single up the middle loaded the bases before Oswalt had retired his first batter of the night.
"I didn't mean to get in a jam," Oswalt said. "The ball back up the middle, I actually could've caught, but I thought the shortstop was playing over a little bit toward the bag so I let it go. But I was able to get the big strikeout for the first out and that was my plan, to get the strikeout and double play. It worked out pretty well."
A couple of curveballs from Oswalt put Baisley, Albuquerque's cleanup hitter, in an 0-2 hole before Oswalt blew a fastball by him for the first out of the inning. Cruz followed by grounding into a 6-4-3 double play to end the threat.
Jerry Sands lifted a bloop single into shallow right field to begin the second inning. Oswalt got the next hitter, Tim Federowicz, to line out to third and nearly got Brian Cavazos-Galves to ground into another inning-ending double play. But Express first baseman Mike Bianucci couldn't scoop second baseman Yangervis Solarte's throw, which bounced into the Isotopes dugout.
Joe Becker worked a full count while facing Oswalt before grounding out to shortstop to end the inning. He would be the last batter Oswalt would face.