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MLB.com Columnist

Richard Justice

Oswalt's stance doesn't fit with Rangers

Justice: Oswalt's stance doesn't fit with Rangers

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Oswalt's stance doesn't fit with Rangers

MLB.com Columnist

Richard Justice

One of the things that makes the Texas Rangers work so well is a clubhouse environment that attempts to put the whole team in front of individual accomplishments.

For instance, there's Michael Young.

It's fair to say he has not always been a happy camper during his 13 seasons with the Rangers. His natural position is second base. Unfortunately for Michael, he has played just 440 of his 1,646 career games there.

He was there for the first three seasons of his Major League career, and when the club asked him to move to shortstop in 2004, he did it.

He did not do this because he preferred to play shortstop. He did it because it was how the Rangers would be best.

He played there for five seasons, but when Rangers general manager Jon Daniels acquired an amazing young shortstop named Elvis Andrus from the Braves in the Mark Teixeira trade, Michael was on the move again.

He played third base for two seasons. And then Daniels signed Adrian Beltre, one of the best defensive third basemen in baseball. Now Young was without a position.

He had some hard feelings about that. He let Daniels know it, and Daniels almost traded him to the Rockies.

They eventually sat down and made their peace. When the Rangers gathered for Spring Training, Young stood up at a team meeting and essentially said that the most important thing was winning.

He said he would do whatever needed to be done to help the Rangers win, and if that meant moving from position to position, if that meant being a full-time designated hitter, that's what he would do.

The Rangers have won back-to-back American League pennants, and while there are hundreds of things that go into the recipe for a winning team, Young's acceptance of yet another new role has been part of it.

Until Josh Hamilton arrived, Young was the most popular player on the Rangers. Inside the clubhouse, he's still the most respected.

His is the voice that carries the most weight. This spring, when some of us wondered how Yu Darvish would fit into the Rangers clubhouse, Young laughed.

"This," he said, "is a very accepting clubhouse."

He said all that mattered to the Rangers was winning and every guy giving his best effort. They'd had plenty of players through the years who, like Darvish, hadn't mastered English. Didn't matter then. Wouldn't matter now.

Which brings us to Roy Oswalt.

When he declined to pitch a third inning of relief on Sunday, he did the very thing the Rangers simply won't tolerate.

He appeared to put himself in front of the team. He did it on a day when manager Ron Washington's bullpen was shorthanded.

Oswalt didn't give Washington a reason for not wanting to pitch. He has not spoken publicly since.

He apparently would like to be traded. The Rangers are open to that, but only if they find a trade that makes them better.

Oswalt had made it clear he didn't like being dropped from the rotation even though he had a 6.49 ERA after six starts. He thought the Rangers should keep giving him the ball and allow him to work out his problems.

In the heat of a pennant race, the Rangers believed they had better options. They also didn't give a rip about Roy Oswalt's feelings. To the Rangers, it's about attempting to win a third straight pennant.

When Oswalt signed with the Rangers, he said that being part of a winning team was one of the things that attracted him to Arlington.

He didn't say that he wanted to win only if he had a role that suited him. He just said he wanted to win.

When push came to shove, he decided to put himself in front of the team. On Monday, the Rangers made three things clear:

• They are not going to release Oswalt.

• They are not going to trade him unless there's a deal that makes them better.

• They are not going to put him back in the rotation unless they see him as a better option.

In other words, the Rangers are going to do what they believe gives them the best chance of winning the AL West again. They certainly aren't going to dump Scott Feldman to soothe Roy Oswalt's feelings.

Speaking of Feldman, he won 17 games as a starter in 2009. When he pitched poorly the following season, he was, like Oswalt, assigned to the bullpen.

He has swung between the rotation and the bullpen in three seasons since. At the moment, he's in the rotation. He's 3-0 with a 1.19 ERA in his past three starts.

The thing is, if Oswalt had kept his mouth shut and pitched in relief, he almost certainly would have ended up back in the rotation. He may still end up there if the Rangers don't trade him.

Darvish is pitching poorly. Ryan Dempster got hit hard in his first career AL start. Derek Holland has been inconsistent.

Oswalt was pitching better in relief than he had in the rotation. Now, though, there's something else to consider.

The Rangers are going to look at Oswalt and know that winning a third straight pennant isn't really the most important thing to him. In a tolerant clubhouse, that's the one thing they've made clear they won't put up with.

Richard Justice is a columnist for MLB.com. Read his blog, Justice4U. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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