The Rockies opened the season as surprise contenders, and they remain just two games out of first place in the NL West. That's thanks largely to an offense that has hit a combined .273/.334/.449 and scored the third most runs (317) in MLB this season, however.
Colorado's rotation pitched to a reasonable 4.24 ERA in the season's first month, but they've posted a 4.75 mark over the past 30 days and a 5.35 mark in the past two weeks. The team recently released Jon Garland and has very little to show for its investment in Jeff Francis. Jhoulys Chacin has spent time on the disabled list already this season, and it's fair to wonder how many innings Jorge De La Rosa will be able to throw after totaling just 31 in 2012.
Troy Renck of the Denver Post writes that help could be on the way, as Roy Oswalt is pitching well at Double-A Tulsa and could make a return to the Major Leagues as soon as next week. Oswalt is scheduled for what could be his final minor league start on Friday.
The 35-year-old right-hander, who signed a minor league deal with the Rockies in May, has a 2.88 ERA with 18 strikeouts and six walks in 25 innings for the Drillers thus far. Renck notes that he threw 95 pitches (62 strikes) in his most recent outing. His fastball sat at 92 mph and his topped out at 95.
Oswalt's contract contains an out clause that can be triggered on June 18. If he's not added to the Major League roster within three days of exercising that clause, he must be granted his release. Because he's currently slated to pitch on June 14, a June 19 promotion seems like a logical target. So how much could he earn, if that's when he's promoted?
Oswalt is set to earn the pro-rated version of a $2.3MM base salary when on the big league roster. If called up on June 19, that would mean the veteran would earn roughly $1.3MM for the remainder of the season (assuming he stays on the roster). On top of that, Oswalt is slated to receive a $400K roster bonus, and he has incentives for number of starts and innings pitched. Those incentives max out at 18 starts and 110 innings pitched, and they can earn Oswalt an additional $1.35MM and $1.25MM, respectively.
It's possible for Oswalt to reach both of those caps, though he would likely need to make all of his starts and average just over six innings per turn to do so. For comparison, Justin Verlander made 19 starts from June 19 through season's end last year, and he totaled 136 2/3 innings in that time. All told, if Oswalt is promoted next week, sticks in the rotation and pitches well, he could earn roughly $4.3MM from the Rockies in 2013.