May 4, 2012; Cleveland, OH, USA: Texas Rangers starting pitcher Colby Lewis (48) throws a pitch during the first inning against the Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field. Mandatory Credit: Eric P. Mull-USPRESSWIRE
So, as you probably already know if you're reading this site, Colby Lewis is going to have to undergo surgery to repair a torn flexor tendon in his right elbow. Lewis is, as a result, finished for the 2012 season, and as reports indicate that the expected time he'll miss is 9-12 months, Lewis will probably miss a good portion of the 2013 season, as well.
This really bums me out, much more so than I expected. Lewis was a great story, a highly-regarded stud pitching prospect who flamed out in the United States, went to Japan, and re-invented himself. He came back to the U.S. on a relatively inexpensive contract that raised a lot of eyebrows at the time. He signed with Texas, the team that originally drafted him, in part because, he said, he felt he had "unfinished business."
Since coming back to Texas, Lewis has done everything anyone could have asked of him for the Rangers, and probably more than most anyone expected. He put up a 3.72 ERA while logging 201 innings in 2010, then a 4.40 ERA in 200.1 innings last year while pitching through a hip injury. And Lewis was nails in the postseason, registering a 2.34 ERA in 50 playoff innings for Texas in 2010-11 over 8 starts. It seems incredible to think back to late 2010, when there were those in the media suggesting that Lewis shouldn't be one of the top three starters in the playoff rotation, that Tommy Hunter was more deserving (based, as best as I could tell at the time, on won-loss records). But Colbyashi was given the ball in some of the biggest games in Rangers history, and he delivered, time and again.
And in 2012, Lewis was having his best season as a Ranger, putting up a Cliff Lee-esque 6.64 K/BB ratio, walking just 14 hitters in 105 innings and posting a 3.43 ERA. The forearm soreness that put him on the disabled list was a warning sign, but I thought it was nothing major...I bought into the reports that it was just precautionary. Sadly, the forearm soreness was a symptom of something much worse, something that has knocked Lewis out for the rest of the regular season and, more critically, for the playoffs.
Jon Daniels talked about Lewis last night during the telecast, and really emphasized how important Lewis had been to the staff, not just because of his numbers, but because he was a workhorse, because he would give the staff innings, and because he was a leader in a rotation filled with young starting pitchers. I'd heard stories about how he'd push other pitchers in spring training on conditioning and provide an example of what needed to be done to be a successful major leaguer, and Daniels echoed that sentiment yesterday.
The other thing that stuck with me is that, despite Lewis being a free agent at the end of the season, Daniels didn't talk about Lewis as a pitcher whose tenure with Texas was over. He spoke definitively about Lewis being someone they wanted to keep in the organization and continue his career with the Rangers. I had written before that, while I had long thought Lewis would be gone after 2012, I was coming around to the view that he was someone the Rangers were going to prioritize re-signing after the season. I was beginning to believe that Lewis was going to be part of the Rangers' rotation in 2013 and going forward.
And I still think that Lewis is going to be a Ranger beyond 2012. Given the nature of the injury, and the rehabilitation time needed, Lewis isn't going to get the type of big free agent payday it looked like he was going to receive after this season. Rather, he's going to have to sign with a team that will probably need to stash him on the 60 day d.l. to start the season, and let him work himself back. And really, there's little reason to believe that that team would not be the Rangers.
So at this point, I'm guessing the Rangers and Colbyashi end up doing a one year, incentive-laden deal this offseason, and that he's back in the rotation at some point in 2013. And I'm hoping that, for sentimental reasons, he sticks around for a while.