Roy Oswalt impresses in Rangers’ debut

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Roy Oswalt was a little shaky in his recent minor league tuneup starts, posting a 5.87 ERA over 15 1/3 innings between Double-A Frisco and Triple-A Round Rock, but he rendered any concerns meaningless last night.

Oswalt was very impressive in his Rangers’ debut, allowing just one run over 6 1/3 innings as part of a 4-1 victory over the Rockies. It was his first start in a major league game since Game 4 of the NLDS against the Cardinals last year. The 34-year-old right-hander scattered nine hits while striking out six and walking just one. He didn’t allow a run until his 110th and final pitch of the evening via an RBI double by Marco Scutaro in the top of the seventh inning.

According to Brooks Baseball, Oswalt’s fastball topped out at 93.1 mph and averaged 91.5 mph, which was nearly identical to his average velocity last season with the Phillies. However, that’s still a tick below his career average of 92.9 mph. It will be interesting to see how Oswalt fares in his first go-around in the American League, especially coming off a season where he posted his lowest strikeout and swinging strike rate of his career, but he should be a stabilizing force for a rotation which has already battled numerous injuries and features a rookie pitcher, Yu Darvish, who is trying to find his way in his first season stateside.

Evan Longoria: “I just kind of feel sorry for the Rays fan base.”

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The Rays were busy over the weekend, trading starter Jake Odorizzi to the Twins, designating All-Star outfielder Corey Dickerson for assignment, and then picking up C.J. Cron in a deal with the Angels. The Rays saved about $4 million — Odorizzi’s $6.3 million less Cron’s $2.3 million salary — and picked up a prospect. They’re still on the hook for Dickerson’s $5.95 million salary until they can find a trade partner, which seems likely.

Those are some head-scratching moves if you’re a Rays fan or a member of the Rays. Dickerson hit .282/.325/.490 with 27 home runs, 62 RBI, and 84 runs scored in 629 plate appearances last season, part of which resulted in his first trip to the All-Star Game. Designating him for assignment is strictly a financial move, assuming he can be traded. The Rays are currently operating with a payroll below $70 million. This comes just a week and a half after Rays ownership proposed the public footing most of the bill for the club’s new stadium. And the Rays had traded third baseman Evan Longoria — then the face of the franchise — to the Giants earlier this offseason.

Longoria expressed sympathy for Rays fans for having to put up with this. Via Andrew Baggarly, Longoria said of the curious Dickerson move, “I just kind of feel sorry for the Rays fan base. … I’m not going to take too many shots but it’s pretty obvious that guy is a valuable player and didn’t deserve to be DFAd. Corey was our best player last year.”

Longoria isn’t quite on the money there. By WAR, Dickerson ranked fifth among position players on the team, according to Baseball Reference. FanGraphs is also in agreement. Still, it’s indisputable that Dickerson, who turns 29 years old this May, more than pulled his weight. The Rays do not have a surfeit of starting outfielders, so it wasn’t like they were making room for other capable players. Mallex Smith, who put up a .684 OPS in 282 PA last year, is slated to start in left field at the moment. Designating Dickerson for assignment, as well as trading Longoria and Odorizzi, were simply cost-cutting decisions.

The Rays’ M.O. has been part of the problem leading to the current stagnant free agent market (sans Eric Hosmer‘s eight-year deal on Saturday). Teams like the Rays, Phillies, Reds, and Tigers have been explicitly putting out non-competitive teams in order to facilitate a rebuilding process. Longoria is right to express sympathy for Rays fans, who see their favorite team worsening a roster that went 80-82 last year. The Rays haven’t finished at .500 or above since 2013 and doesn’t figure to halt the streak this year.