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01/22/09 1:53 PM EST

Oswalt talks of anticipation for Classic

Astros ace discusses pitching for Team USA in tourney

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas -- Roy Oswalt and Hunter Pence were the featured attractions in southeast Texas Thursday, as the Astros' caravan moved through Corpus Christi, home of their Double-A affiliate.

Before the group stopped by the Naval Station Ingleside to sign autographs, Oswalt spoke with MLB.com about the upcoming World Baseball Classic and how he's passed the time in his hometown of Weir, Miss., this winter.

MLB.com: You've always been up front with the fact that Spring Training gets a little boring, so how nice will it be to get a break from the monotony by pitching for Team USA in the World Baseball Classic?

Oswalt: It's a long six weeks, for sure. Plus, when you're trying to get ready for the season during Spring Training, you're not playing in true games where it really means something while you're preparing, whereas with the World Baseball Classic games, they really mean something. Playing for the United States means a lot. You're going to go out there with a little bit of a different attitude than you normally will in Spring Training, where you're just trying to get your pitch count up and be ready for the season.

MLB.com: How have you prepared this winter to make sure you're ready when the Classic starts in early March?

Oswalt: I started throwing a little earlier. I've been throwing for three weeks now, so I'm trying to go into Spring Training throwing five innings as soon as I get there, and hopefully have two, three starts before I leave for the tournament, and be ready for whatever game they want me to pitch.

MLB.com: Is there anyone on Team USA you're looking forward to playing with?

Oswalt: A bunch of guys. There's a few guys I haven't met yet, but most I've met at All-Star Games in the past. I'm looking forward to meeting Dustin Pedroia and some of the other guys who are younger than me. And of course, Jake [Peavy is] playing.

I've met most of these guys at the All-Star Game, but it'll be nice to play with them for more than one game, more than one inning. It'll be pretty neat. And I'm looking forward to playing for [manager] Davey Johnson, and I also know [hitting coach] Reggie Smith -- he was the third-base coach for us during the Olympics in 2000. So I get to meet him again, too.

MLB.com: Being out of routine is a concern for a lot of players who participated in the Classic in '06 and are contemplating playing this year. Is that of any concern to you?

Oswalt: I'm not worried about being out of sync. The biggest thing is building your arm strength up. If you go into Spring Training ready to throw four, five innings right out of the chute and get in game competition, then throwing 85, 100 pitches by March 10 is not really a big deal.

MLB.com: Is it hard to get motivated for a tournament that isn't the World Series, and one that is played in March, after everyone has just had so much down time over the winter?

Oswalt: It's actually pretty easy to get up for this. You're looking at representing the whole United States instead of representing just one city. It's not a true Olympics, but you are facing world competition, where you're going to get yourself up to beat a foreign country.

MLB.com: How do you like your team's chances?

Oswalt: I think we're going to be OK. It's the same thing like in the Olympics in 2000 -- they pretty much counted us out before we got there. This year, we're picked kind of low, so I think we're going to be OK. The biggest thing is pitching, and we have pretty good pitching.

MLB.com: Let's talk about the offseason. Besides working out, What have you been doing to pass the time?

Oswalt: I get up at six most mornings and try to do some type of work, something on the ranch. I'm actually building a restaurant in my town. It'll be a weekend thing, not open all the time. It's going to be a steakhouse. It'll be more of a cafe -- I only have 500 people in my town and I wanted to put something in for them, because you have to drive 20 miles to get anywhere.

MLB.com: You're building it yourself?

Oswalt: I bought some land that's close to the town where I grew up, and I'm building a pad to build the restaurant on. I'm going to start on the foundation before I leave for Spring Training. It's going to be called "Home Plate Steakhouse." It'll probably be ready for business by September of this year.

Alyson Footer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.