Given the fact that he was walking around on a new hip and hadn’t pitched in nearly 21 months, expectations for Colby Lewis were too high in April when he returned to the Texas Rangers.
His own expectations, admittedly, were too high.
He was eight months removed from a hip resurfacing, a heavy-duty surgery and heretofore ground-breaking procedure for a major league ballplayer.
Lewis was in the midst of the process of figuring out what his body could do without being limited by pain in his right hip. If the surgery hadn’t been successful, he would have retired.
Now, he feels great and understands what his body will allow him to do. That has been evident with what he’s done on the mound in the second half.
Lewis continued his post-All-Star break resurgence Wednesday, allowing only two runs in seven strong innings to lead the Rangers to a 3-2 victory and their only series win this month.
It stands as his best start of his comeback season.
The future hasn’t looked this bright for Lewis (7-8) since he dispatched the Yankees in the 2010 American League Championship Series. Lewis is convinced that he has a future in baseball beyond this season, and he hopes it’s with the pitching-starved Rangers.
“I’m a Ranger at heart,” Lewis said. “I really, really, really feel we can work something out. I want to come back here.”
The rest of the season needs to play itself out, and Lewis needs to continue to pitch well. The past three starts could be a start.
He has a 3.43 ERA, 2 1/2 runs better than his overall ERA of 5.98, and he has been making the necessary in-game adjustments to give the struggling Rangers a chance to win.
He has posted quality starts in two straight and four of his past six. Opponents are hitting .235 against him in his past three.
“Colby knows how to pitch,” Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter said. “He spots his fastball. He throws his breaking ball. He keeps you off balance, and he was able to do that tonight. He does what he does. He knows what he’s doing out there.”
Brett Gardner started the game with a homer, and Lewis needed 29 pitches to get out of a first inning in which he faced seven batters and walked two. Jacoby Ellsbury got him for a one-out homer in the third, and Carlos Beltran followed two batters later with a single.
But that was the last of the offense for the Yankees. Lewis retired the final 13 batters he faced, and Neal Cotts and Neftali Feliz each logged a perfect inning.
Lewis finished at 106 pitches, and the seven innings were a season-high.
“There was definitely an adjustment period trying to get used to a prosthetic hip, I guess,” Lewis said. “As the weeks have transitioned into the second half, I feel like every time I’m taking the mound I’m getting stronger and my mechanics are sharper.”
The biggest adjustment Lewis had to make with the new hip was with his delivery, and he credits pitching coach Mike Maddux for studying video and getting Lewis in the right place.
Not only does his hip not hurt anymore, but his arm is no longer sore from throwing across his body because of the hip pain.
“I feel like I’m kind of back to 2010 and 2011,” Lewis said. “I don’t have any pain.”
The Rangers erased the 1-0 hole in the first, scoring three times against Hiroki Kuroda.
Shin-Soo Choo opened with a single and quickly scored as Elvis Andrus grounded a double past third base and into the left-field corner.
Adrian Beltre singled in Andrus two batters later, and No. 7 hitter Leonys Martin sent a two-out blooper into left to cap the scoring.
The Rangers finished July with a 6-20 record, with five of the wins coming since the All-Star break.
“I think we’ve been playing good baseball,” manager Ron Washington said. “I’m happy.”
So is Lewis, and he’ll be happier if he is back with the Rangers in 2015.