March 7, 2013

Lewis, Soria coming, but don’t see themselves as Rangers’ saviors

The injured right-handers, though, will boost the rotation and bullpen in late May.

The campaign to bring Kyle Lohse to the Texas Rangers continues to roll through such venues as Twitterville and Blogosphere, but continues to meet stiff opposition in the front office of the 2010 and 2011 American League champions.

The chances of the Rangers signing the free agent are holding steady at slim and none, though minds could be swayed if Lohse were willing to settle for a one-year deal and another crack at free agency in 2014.

Many within the organization believe that Lohse would serve as an upgrade to a rotation that will open the year with uncertainty surrounding the Nos. 4 and 5 spots. But the money, and the sacrifice of the No. 24 overall draft choice, are sticking points.

So, the Rangers are going with what they have in camp, a group that could eventually include the recently signed Derek Lowe. He’s going to work toward a spot in the bullpen initially, which isn’t a ringing endorsement for the in-house candidates.

Help is on the way.

Colby Lewis and Joakim Soria will be able-bodied by late May and ready to rescue what is perceived to be an impending pitching disaster to start the season.

“Come on?” Lewis said. “Really?”

Lewis and Soria, though, don’t see themselves as conquering heroes because they haven’t seen any reason to panic.

But they should make the Rangers’ pitching staff better. That’s the expectation, at least.

“We want to come out and win early, regardless of when I come back,” Lewis said. “The front office is trying to put the team in line to get wins, and they’re trying to bring the best guys in they possibly can.”

Some of the hopefuls were on display Thursday at Camelback Ranch against the Dodgers. Randy Wells started, and Joe Nathan was the only reliever who followed who has a guaranteed roster spot.

Among those scheduled to pitch today, weather permitting, only Michael Kirkman has a firm grasp on a plane ticket to Minute Maid Park for the March 31 season opener against Houston.

The pitching staff that night is likely to include multiple pitchers who are either unproven or have something to prove. Though both Lewis (torn flexor tendon) and Soria (torn elbow ligament) are recovering from major operations last year, their veteran eyes have seen plenty of talented arms.

“There is no doubt that they can do the job,” Soria said. “There’s a competition with a lot of young guys. But don’t judge by what’s happening in spring training. It’s a different feeling in the season, and I’m comfortable that the guys we have here are really good.”

Soria remains on a Monday-Wednesday-Friday schedule for throwing bullpen sessions. He started working with his changeup this week and will start spinning some breaking pitches next week.

He’s been encouraged by his command, something that often comes last for pitchers coming off Tommy John surgery.

Like Lewis, Soria isn’t tempted to ramp up his rehab for fear of a setback. Each pitcher wants to come back only one time, and doesn’t want to come back until he is in top form.

“I’m not trying to come back to be one of the guys or one more player,” said Soria, an All-Star closer with Kansas City in 2008 and 2010. “I want to perform the way I used to perform. If I’m going to come back, I’m not going to come back to be so-so.”

Lewis finds the notion that he and Soria will have to save the Rangers’ season to be laughable. Of course, Lewis seemed largely unaffected by being the Rangers’ Opening Day starter last year and hasn’t wilted under the postseason spotlight.

He and Soria will be getting a chance to pitch and make a positive impact.

Nothing more. Nothing less.

“It’s another chance,” Lewis said. “You’ve got to take advantage of those opportunities. If the opportunity is there for me to come in and be healthy and contribute, that’s what I want to do. All I can do is put myself in line to help benefit the team.”

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