SURPRISE, Ariz. -- If Colby Lewis wanted to, he’d have every right to complain about his hard-luck injury history and the sacrifices he has had to make on his winding, worldly path through the big leagues.
His latest setback, a hip surgery, means he’s back at spring training at age 34 to win a spot in the back end of the Texas Rangers' rotation.
This was the same guy that just three years ago was the best postseason starting pitcher the Rangers had as they went to the World Series for the second straight year.
Lewis was finally set to get paid in a nice, well-earned free-agent contract. But less than six months from that pay day, he tore a flexor tendon in his elbow, ending his 2012 season. It also ended any chance he had at a lucrative, multi-year contract.
Yet with all of that frustration, Lewis doesn’t show any sign of bitterness. There’s no “why me?” talk.
“Baseball has given me the opportunity to play and make good money and do it as long as I have,” Lewis said. “I can’t look at it as, ‘It was my free-agent year, and I blew out.’ I feel like I’ve done a good job at being able to support my family and do the things that I’ve wanted to do, it’s just that God didn’t quite give me the body that would hold up.
“It’s one of those things where I feel like I’m trying to play with what I’ve got. That’s it. You can’t really ask for a better situation than I feel like what I’ve had. I’ve had some surgeries, but I’ve been able to play the game until I’m 35 years old. I feel like that’s a pretty good deal.”
Perhaps that outlook is the biggest reason Lewis continues to push forward, overcoming hurdles that many, including his doctors, aren’t sure are likely.
The former high draft pick -- taken as a compensation selection between the first and second rounds in 1999 by the Rangers -- had Tommy John surgery at 16, even before his career really began. He had shoulder surgery in 2004 and missed all of the 2005 season. When he came back, he wasn’t particularly effective in the big leagues, so he played in Japan for two seasons with hopes of finding MLB success again.
He did, and the Rangers signed him to a two-year deal with a club option before the 2010 season. Lewis became the anchor of the rotation and the organization’s top postseason starter during those consecutive trips to the World Series in 2010 and 2011.
But that 2012 season ended earlier than expected for Lewis, with surgery to repair the torn flexor tendon, and his comeback attempt last season never really took.
He had a hip resurfacing surgery last year that no big league pitcher on record has tried to do in the middle of his career. Lewis admits he’s a little anxious about how it’s going to react when he faces hitters next week in live batting practice sessions.
But Lewis said he thinks his mechanics have improved and he doesn’t have hip pain, something that he’s dealt with since he was in Toledo with the Detroit Tigers’ organization in 2006. The two-pound, smooth, metal ball in his hip is holding up so far, but everyone -- including his surgeon, Dr. Edwin Su, and his coaches -- are curious to see if it can withstand the level of activity Lewis will put on it in the coming months and years.
“It could last me five years. It could last me three years,” Lewis said. “Who knows?”
If it can last him the next six weeks, maybe he’ll find himself back in the Rangers' rotation. Lewis is one of a gaggle of candidates for the final spot in the club’s rotation.
“The Rangers have been [gracious] to give me another opportunity this year to try to make the club,” Lewis said. “That’s all I can do is go out there and perform with what I’ve got. If it’s good enough, I’ll make the club. If it’s not, we’ll see what’s out there.”
Just don’t expect Lewis to dwell on the past, no matter how difficult it’s been. His focus is on what’s ahead.