Surprise positional outlook: No. 3 starter

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Colby Lewis rejoins the Rangers in a much different mindset than he was when he was a first-round draft pick in 1999.

That's what two years in Japan finding your game will do for you after shoulder injuries and struggles. After spending part of 2007 in the Oakland bullpen, Lewis figured it was time to see if he could make some money and pitch better overseas.

He did both. And after two solid seasons playing for the Hiroshima Carp -- 26-17 with a 2.82 ERA in two seasons -- he's returned to Texas as the No. 3 starter. Lewis isn't in Surprise to fight for a rotation spot. He has one already, part of a contract that pays him $5 million in guaranteed money the next two seasons and could net him another $3.25 million in a club optoin for 2012. What the Rangers hope to see is the same guy that found his command in Japan.

Lewis' most impressive number is his strikeout-to-walk ratio. Lewis, 30, struck out 183 batters and walked 27 in 178 innings in 2008. Last season, he pitched 176 innings and had 186 strikeouts and 19 walks.

"I found my command and got more consistent about locating the ball," Lewis said.

All of this comes after shoulder injuries and an inability to consistently find the strike zone had Lewis going back and forth between the majors and minors. Right shoulder surgery in 2004 forced Lewis to miss the 2005 season. He bounced around some more after that before landing in Japan in 2008.

Lewis added a cutter while overseas to go along with his slider, changeup and curve. He has a more compact delivery since Ranger fans last saw him. He's not throwing quite as hard (though he says he can hit 96 mph on the gun at times) in an effort to be sure and find the location. It's a formula that worked for him in Japan.

Now the question is: Can it work here? The Rangers are certainly banking on it. Lewis seems very calm and collected at spring training so far, going about his business and making sure he's in top shape for the start of the season. He has a quiet confidence about him. We'll see if that translates into a solid 2010.

BTW, check out some of Lewis' thoughts of Japan here.

What are you expecting from Lewis this season?