These days, Colby Lewis’ gait resembles that of John Wayne, but it’s more akin to the way the Duke walked in Rooster Cogburn (1972) than in Angel and the Badman (1947).
That’s not a good thing for a major league starting pitcher, especially one who is trying to come back to the Texas Rangers after a significant operation on his arm. As tough as Lewis is — tough as a Wayne character — he couldn’t keep going on a bum right hip forever.
Lewis will undergo surgery within the next week to clear bone spurs from his hip and will miss the rest of the season. His hope is that he can agree to a 2014 contract with the Rangers, even if only a minor league deal with an invitation to spring training.
He wants to be healthy again, and continuing to pitch through the hip pain could have led to more arm troubles for the right-hander.
“Me going out there — my fastball has inconsistencies,” Lewis said Tuesday. “My consistency to repeat my delivery is not there. I’ve put myself in a situation where I haven’t given my arm a chance to get right, either. I know going out there, my arm feels great at times. If my mechanics aren’t right with my hip, it feels sore at times.”
General manager Jon Daniels made the announcement in a joint conference call with Lewis around lunchtime on the West Coast. Lewis had been scheduled to make a fifth rehab start Thursday with Triple A Round Rock, aiming for 100 pitches, but after meeting with the Rangers medical staff, Lewis decided surgery was best for his career.
Lewis hasn’t pitched in the majors since July 18, 2012. He was the Rangers’ Opening Day starter that season after becoming the most successful postseason pitcher in club history in 2010 and 2011.
He is 4-1 with a 2.34 ERA in eight playoff starts, including a win in Game 6 of the 2010 American League Championship Series as the Rangers punched their first ticket to the World Series.
He did it without a blazing fastball but with steely nerves, execution and guts.
“As far as the situation surrounding him, it doesn’t bother him,” second baseman Ian Kinsler said. “He knows his game, and he’s going to execute it. He understands how to pitch and what makes him successful.
“He’s like your old favorite Toyota truck that just won’t break down, keeps going, and keeps giving you the mileage you need. The last couple years he’s been pretty special with what he’s had to deal with and what he’s given.”
Lewis, originally drafted by the Rangers in 1999, rejoined the organization in 2010 after two seasons in Japan and went 32-29 with a 3.93 ERA the next three seasons. He had said over the weekend that he was ready to make his 2013 debut and help restore some of the Rangers’ pitching depth.
Instead, left-hander Matt Harrison is the next injured pitcher in line. He will make a third rehab appearance Friday at Round Rock, trying to get to five innings or 65 pitches, and he hopes he will need only two more starts before rejoining the rotation.
Harrison threw a bullpen session Tuesday at Angel Stadium ahead of the second game of a three-game series. The game was still being played at press time.
“I still have to get guys out and have good stuff,” said Harrison, who underwent two back operations in April and May. “For me, I’m taking it day to day. I can’t push it too fast. I need to make sure I’m doing it the right way.”
Lewis, 34, might have had a little more push in his hip, but to keep doing so would have put his career at stake.
The Rangers supported Lewis’ decision to have surgery, and Daniels said the Rangers are interested in bring him back in 2014.
“The guy’s got an unbelievable pain tolerance and work ethic, and he pushed through it as far as he could,” Daniels said. “It got to a point where he felt and we felt he was probably putting his arm at risk by pushing it further.”