Rangers’ pitchers are better, Maddux should return

08/11/2014 10:25 PM

08/11/2014 11:36 PM

Colby Lewis and his bionic hip were at it again Monday, though not nearly as efficiently or effectively against Tampa Bay as he had been six days earlier at Chicago.

The second inning was especially trying for Lewis, who needed 32 pitches to get three outs in a frame that included his own throwing error, a three-plus minute review, a security guard getting his chin bloodied by a foul ball and three unearned runs.

Pitching coach Mike Maddux also jogged to the mound for a visit to give Lewis a chance to organize his thoughts and catch his breath on a 92-degree night at Globe Life Park.

Those visits have been commonplace since Maddux joined the Rangers in 2009. A calming hand on the chest or shoulder. A wry smile. Comforting words. A suggestion on how to get out of trouble.

The club has even gone so far as to mock the visits in TV commercials.

Maddux, though, has been operating this season in the final year of his contract. The results posted by the Rangers’ pitchers this season haven’t helped his cause.

But if results were what general manager Jon Daniels was using to determine who stays and who goes, no member of manager Ron Washington’s coaching staff would return. And Daniels, the architect of the current roster, wouldn’t either.

Daniels, though, has stated that the coaches are being judged on how well they develop the young players who are occupying spots where injured veterans are supposed to be.

If that indeed is the case, Maddux has earned his extension.

And he wants to come back.

“I love it here,” he said.

And he should be back.

The results the last few times through the rotation, some of which can be calculated and some of which only trained eyes can find amid some second-half stinkers, have been better.

When he was done after five innings, Lewis had surrendered five runs (two earned) and the Rays were on their way to a 7-0 victory to open a four-game series.

His feel-good past four starts, including the shutout Aug. 5, didn’t feel quite as good.

But Lewis has been part of a resurgence within the rotation, which entered the second half of the season with questions in four of the five spots.

Most of the questions remain, but there aren’t quite as many. Lewis, for instance, is tracking toward a spot in the 2015 rotation after regaining his stamina and stuff after a 21-month hiatus.

Lewis has heaped praise on Maddux, who scoured video of Lewis’ starts before his hip injury to help him regain the mechanics he had when he emerged as a postseason hero in 2010 and 2011.

“I give Colby all the credit,” Maddux said.

Nick Martinez, Nick Tepesch and Miles Mikolas have been better, too. They have a better idea of what they should be doing and have a better idea of how to execute.

Pitch sequences, understanding what hitters are thinking, scouting reports, preparation. All of those things have come from the pitching coach.

“It goes on and on,” Martinez said. “He’s trying to get the mental clock going and the wheels turning. You go through certain things in the minors, but this is just different.”

The Martinez-Tepesch-Mikolas trio will be among those in spring training vying for a 2015 rotation spot. What they do the rest of the season will go a long way toward preparing them for the competition.

“Have guys gotten better? I think so,” Maddux said. “Sometimes the results don’t really tell you what’s been learned. You really can’t go on results. You have to go on an individual basis.

“If you ask each player out there if they’re better than they were a month ago, I think they’d all say yes.”

The improvement will go a long way toward determining if Maddux is asked to return.

He wants to be back.

He should be back.

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