Colby Lewis is rejoining the Texas Rangers’ organization for 2018, though as a special assistant to general manager Jon Daniels and not as one of the three pitchers needed for the starting rotation.
Lewis and the Rangers finalized a contract over the weekend, but were unable to agree to terms before last season, ending the right-hander’s career. At age 37 and after 11 years in the majors, two in Japan and multiple surgeries, Lewis was looking for a big-league deal with only a handful of clubs to lure away from home.
But after all that time in baseball, he has learned that it’s tough to quit cold turkey. So, the 38-year-old is dipping his toe back into the game — committing to stints in spring training and the instructional league, and trips to minor league affiliates to nurture young pitchers.
“They presented it to me, and I wanted to see if I like it,” Lewis said Monday. “You’ve done baseball your whole life, and then to just shut it down, your mind still turns.”
Lewis received a taste for what he will be doing late in the season as he visited Class A Spokane and then spent a few days in Surprise, Ariz., at instructs. Farm director Jayce Tingler, as well as Lewis’ wife, Jenny, have told him that he can share his experiences and knowledge with minor-leaguers.
The majority of the Rangers’ top pitching prospects were in the lower levels of the minors last season and will be again in 2018. Among the prospects Lewis has spent time with is 2016 first-rounder Cole Ragans, a left-hander who was rated by Baseball America as the top prospect in the Northwest League in 2017.
Lewis, drafted by the Rangers in 1999 and signed by them in 2010 after a successful stint in Japan, isn’t sure how much time he will spend with the big-league club, which needs to replace three starters from the 2017 rotation. Lewis is well-aware of their needs.
“I told [a friend], ‘I’m going to come in as an employee, but I’m going to come in in shape, too,’ ” Lewis said, jokingly.