The select few holdovers from the Texas Rangers’ runs to the World Series in 2010 and 2011 have a difficult time finding a bad thing to say about Colby Lewis.
They fondly recall how he won two critical games in the 2010 American League Championshp Series, including the clincher in Game 6, and shut down the San Francisco Giants in Game 3 for the Fall Classic for the Rangers’ only win.
“It was like a video game,” shortstop Elvis Andrus said. “He was painting everything.”
Others remember the fortitude Lewis has shown during a whirlwind career, especially the past two or three seasons as he dealt with a failing hip and a torn flexor tendon. He didn’t have much, but made the most of it and left a lasting impression on how to compete.
The club’s best postseason pitcher is still standing, albeit after a revolutionary hip procedure, and is back at big-league spring training, albeit on a minor league deal.
The right-hander is competing for a spot in the rotation, and those who have been around since 2010 are rooting for the right-hander. That includes just about everyone in the group who will determine who makes the Opening Day roster.
But Lewis might not be feeling the love when the final two spots in the rotation are awarded. He needs to win a job, and another outing like the one he had Saturday won’t help.
“He’s not going to be tugging on our hearts,” manager Ron Washington said. “He’s already on our hearts, but we separate. We’re out here watching the results of what Colby is doing and how he’s going about it.”
Lewis said that he felt good and had good movement on his pitches Saturday, but the results suggested otherwise. Oakland tagged him for six runs on five hits in 1 1/3 innings, and Lewis walked three more batters and hit another.
Two of the hits were back-to-back homers by Brandon Moss and Josh Reddick in the first inning that put the Rangers in a 4-2 hole.
He was ahead 1-2 in the count against the A’s first two hitters, but Coco Crisp managed a single that glanced off Lewis’ shoulder and John Jaso fought for a walk.
“The outcomes weren’t very good,” Lewis said. “I felt like I threw some good pitches.”
Another rotation candidate, Nick Tepesch, allowed seven runs on nine hits in three innings against the A’s. Robbie Ross and Tanner Scheppers each pitched well in four-inning stints Friday night, and 40-man roster members Joe Saunders and Tommy Hanson will continue to get serious looks.
Lewis, who has logged only four innings in three spring starts, knows that he doesn’t have much margin for error the rest of camp. He’s 0-1 with an 18.00 ERA.
“I’ve got to get outs,” Lewis said. “If I’m not getting outs, I don’t think that it’s very fair for me to make the club over someone who is shoving. Hopefully I get a couple more opportunities this spring.”
While the Rangers won’t allow Lewis to pull on their heartstrings, they also aren’t doubting a pitcher who has overcome so much in his career.
He had surgery for a torn rotator cuff early in the 2004 season and missed all of 2005. He bounced around the minors before salvaging his career with two stellar seasons in Japan.
Lewis, 34, needed surgery on his forearm in 2012 and was attempting to come back from that when he finally cried uncle on his right hip and underwent a hip resurfacing that is just short of a hip replacement.
Just the fact that he’s in camp would seem to be a medical miracle. Perhaps it is, but the Rangers aren’t surprised Lewis is back at it.
“He’s been through so much and with what he’s meant to the organization the past four or five years, you just want to see him get back,” left-hander Matt Harrison said. “I’m not really surprised, just knowing him. He wants to get back.”
But he’s going to have to take a spot in the rotation. Another day like Saturday, though, and it’s going to be a tough task.
“We’re certainly not going to be sentimental and give Colby a pitching spot on this team,” Washington said. “If Colby gets a pitching spot on this team, it’s because he won it.”