Colby Lewis: Defying the Odds

This evening, at 7:05 PM, the Rangers will begin a series against the Seattle Mariners. There will be no milestone records on the line. The fanfare that comes with a marquee series against the likes of the Red Sox or Yankees will likely be missing. And really, at 6-6, many casual fans will probably be a bit turned off by this Rangers club that is in survival mode with the rash of injuries that has kept the club from any sort of tangible winning streak thus far in 2014.

Despite that, April 14 will be a special occasion in Arlington, as Colby Lewis will make his first Major League start since July 18, 2012.

Lewis was expected to return last season, but it never happened, as hip problems finally became too much to bear as he attempted to come back from Tommy John surgery. So now, as he attempts to return from a hip resurfacing procedure that offered more questions than answers when we first saw his name attached to it last season, his story will have come full circle. Again.

Colby Lewis was originally the 38th overall pick by the Rangers all the way back in 1999, and at the time, was regarded as a future centerpiece for the Rangers rotation. That never materialized, however, after a rotator cuff injury and command issues left him bouncing around on minor league deals until he decided to attempt his craft in Japan in 2008.

By the time Lewis was signed by the Rangers prior to the 2010 season, he was considered by many fans as nothing more than a footnote. Heading into that season, the Rangers had Scott Feldman as the top starter on the club, had signed Rich Harden, who was expected to be a high-strikeout pitcher, and C.J. Wilson was set to make his first foray into the starting rotation after spending his career to that point in the bullpen. Matt Harrison was still considered mostly an afterthought, and somewhere in there, there was Colby Lewis.

Of course, over the two seasons that followed, Lewis became a fan-favorite, thanks in no small part to his absolute dominance in the postseason. By 2012, even though Yu Darvish had headlined the offseason spending spree by ownership, Lewis found himself as the Opening Day starter on a Rangers club that was expecting big things after back-to-back World Series appearances.

Another arm injury ended up shelving Lewis that summer, and we haven't seen him on the mound in Arlington since. During the rehab process last season -- as Lewis was gearing up for what was expected to be a return to the Rangers' rotation -- he was shut down after a degenerative hip problem finally ran its course. At the time, it appeared his career would be over.

Yet, here we are in 2014, and Lewis is poised to make another odds-defying comeback. Better yet, if you believe reports that Lewis has better range of motion in his hip -- and I do -- then it makes the prospect of his rejoining the rotation even sweeter. Evan Grant provided some details on the comeback attempt in a piece posted last night:

The biggest “problem” has been that Lewis has essentially had to relearn his delivery. Meister estimates Lewis’ full stride down the mound is 1 1/2 feet longer than prior to the surgery. It’s led to a slight increase in velocity — Lewis has had the occasional fastball zip into the low 90s — but also less consistency with the strike zone.

In other words, Lewis is dealing with the problem of his body cooperating more than it has in years, and he's being forced to adjust on the fly. Given the way in which the Rangers have had to adjust the entire rotation on the fly since before Spring Training even began, Lewis fits right in, and he just might give us something to smile about by the end of the season.

Chances are, Lewis will struggle at times. He's always been prone to a game here and there in which he struggled to get the ball down and gave up more home runs than you might like. Regardless, when he's been on, he's been one of the best pitchers the Rangers have had, and given the amount of adversity he's fought through to just to come back, it's nothing short of a miracle that he's even going to pitch at all.

Colby Lewis isn't a savior, and he's likely not going to be the 2nd-best pitcher on the roster. Not with Yu Darvish and Martin Perez. Chances are, he won't even be the 3rd-best if Derek Holland returns this season resembling anything close to his 2013 form. However, if Lewis can pitch effectively and go deep into games, he's going to be just the asset the Rangers need, allowing the club to further strengthen the bullpen with pieces that are currently in the rotation, and perhaps keep us from having to witness Joe Saunders start another game in a Rangers uniform.

Then again, I've been wrong before, and Colby Lewis keeps defying the odds. Maybe he'll surprise us all and do more than we can realistically expect.