Arlington, Tex - After 21 months, Texas Rangers right-handed pitcher Colby Lewis finally returned to the mound yesterday against the Seattle Mariners. Colby Lewis had his last major league appearance on July 18, 2012 against the Oakland Athletics. He’s the first major league player to return to the game after having hip resurfacing surgery. Many have been questioning his return and some have said the old Lewis is gone.
Uphill battle: It is hard to disagree with the critics, he does have a lot going against him for his attempt to return to the majors. First of all, Lewis missed the second half of the 2012 season because of elbow issues which resulted in surgery. Second, during his comeback attempt in 2013 he was again sidelined due to his hip. But Colby Lewis has remained focused on returning to the majors despite the odds.
During the offseason and throughout spring training Colby Lewis put in all of the necessary work and preparation for the upcoming season. Even though his chances to return to the mound were slim, he never let that bother him. If you asked him, he knew he was going to make his return.
Welcome home: After all of the hard work it was finally time to see if it would pay off. At 7:05 pm on an unusually cold spring day in Texas and with the bright lights shining on him, Lewis looked very ready to take center stage for his first start in over 21 months. Not only for Lewis, this outing would answer several questions for everyone. How will the hip react; will he have his command; will he have his velocity; will he be able to field a weak ground ball and will he be able to plug a hole in the rotation?
All very valid questions about someone trying to return from the surgeries he’s had over the last 2 years. Lewis unleashed his first pitch and the 87 MPH fastball glided through the air into J.P. Arencibia‘s glove just a bit low and away for ball one. After a quick set, he threw two more fastballs and finally a perfect curveball to strike out Abraham Almonte. Lewis was now back pitching in the majors. The hard work has paid off at least for the phase of his journey.
No one else has done it: Lewis had now done something no other major league player had ever done, he had pitched an inning in major league baseball after hip surgery. Early evaluation of Lewis after 1 inning were nothing but high marks. Lewis was able to deliver and locate his pitches very effectively. His fastball velocity was in the high 80s and as the game progressed it was recorded as high as 90 MPH. For Lewis, it would seem he hasn’t missed a game at all in 21 months. But also for him, he’s pitching without pain, which is a first in over 6 years.
Lewis continued to pitch very well for the entire game. He managed to out think each batter and kept the game scoreless until he gave up a home run to Mike Zunino in the 5th. At that point the score was 0-1. Another bright spot for Lewis was when a weak grounder was hit his way. He was able to field the ball and beat out the runner to first base for the out. On that play it seemed that Lewis was able to make the play with ease and there wasn’t any issues with his hip.
After 3 innings Colby Lewis looked very solid maybe it could be said he was pitching like vintage Lewis of 2010/2011. Starting in the 4th inning he was showing some signs of wear, his fastball was a bit more elevated, but he was still pitching very well.
6 in the 6th with 3 errors: In my opinion, Lewis was on his way to completing 6 innings, but the Rangers defense sputtered then and things began to unravel. Robinson Cano was the first batter in the inning, who he had contained thus far in the night. Cano hit a grounder up the middle, which was playable, but second baseman Josh Wilson’s dive to his left was a bit short. Wilson displayed his frustration by hitting the ground with his fist. That was probably a good way to illustrate the whole team’s frustration with their performance in the 6th.
Lewis was on his way to exit the game with only 1 earned run, but after a few missed plays and 3 errors, the Mariners managed to score 6 in the 6th. Lewis was only charged with 3 in that inning and 4 for the day. He had 89 pitches with 56 strikes over 5.1 innings. As he exited Lewis received a well deserved standing ovation, which he actually missed. Unfortunately for Lewis, the Rangers offense failed to give him any support and he would suffer his first loss. Although it probably wasn’t the start he wanted and by all metrics was just average, everyone should will count this as an outstanding outing considering the circumstances.
Silencing critics: He’s only pitched in one game, but a lot of questions have been answered. Lewis is able to pitch well and he’s exceeded all expectations. He was able to move of the mound very well and made some good plays at first. Also, his fastball is right was it was when he left the game in 2012. And if you were wondering if he would be back in the rotation, I think he answered that yesterday, King Corba is back. We still don’t know how durable he is, but we do know he’ll do everything in his power to get on that mound every chance he has. If he’s able to repeat what he did yesterday, the Texas Rangers will take that every time.