Colby Lewis is staying with the Texas Rangers.
The veteran right-hander agreed to a minor-league contract with an invitation to major league spring training to stay with the franchise that originally drafted him in 1999, the Rangers said Saturday.
Lewis will make a $2 million base salary while in the big leagues with a chance to earn $4 million more in incentives. He provides depth to a starting rotation that has Yu Darvish, Derek Holland, Martin Perez, Matt Harrison and Alexi Ogando penciled in as the 2014 starters.
Lewis, 34, has been with the team since 2010, but didn’t pitch in the majors last season. He made seven medical rehabilitation appearances in the minor leagues, suffering several setbacks in his recovery from flexor tendon surgery in his right elbow.
Lewis was slowed by triceps soreness and right elbow soreness, and then saw his season come to an end when he underwent right hip resurfacing surgery on Aug. 22 to take care of an issue that has bothered him the past few seasons.
There aren’t many cases of professional athletes coming back from the hip surgery, although the Rangers believe Lewis has the makeup and drive to do it.
“If you were ever going to bet on a guy, you’d bet on Colby Lewis,” Rangers assistant general manager Thad Levine said. “It’s a little bit on unchartered waters, so we’re going to take it step by step.”
Lewis, who last pitched in the majors on July 18, 2012, at Oakland, is still in the rehab process from hip surgery and has yet to throw this off-season. But the team expects Lewis to be playing long toss and progressing toward throwing off a mound by the time spring training begins in mid-February.
The Rangers signed Lewis prior to the 2010 season after he spent two seasons pitching in Japan. It worked out well, as Lewis went 32-29 with a 3.93 ERA in 80 starts for the Rangers from 2010-12. He reached the 200-inning mark in 2010 and 2011, and then shined in the postseason during the Rangers’ two World Series runs.
“Colby has been a tremendous contributor to this franchise’s success, both on and off the field,” Levine said. “We’re happy he’s returning. It was a big priority for us.”