ARLINGTON, Texas -- Colby Lewis isn't about flash and fame. It's just not his style. He's been asked many times about his goals since he was signed in 2010 and the answer is always the same: Keep my team in games and pitch every five days.
For 2 1/2 seasons, Lewis has done that. Only a torn flexor tendon could stop him -- and he even tried to bulldoze his way through that injury, too. Lewis knew, after an MRI was done the first time he went on the disabled list this season, that he had a small tear in the tendon.
“It was a question on how much (pain) could I take and how much was I willing to take," Lewis said.
He's willing to take a lot. He's had a balky hip for a while now and didn't announce that to the media because he didn't want it used as an excuse. He's found a way to grind through pitching at least 200 innings for two straight seasons and then dial it up a notch when it's mattered most in the postseason.
He's dealt with rotator cuff surgery and even took the leap to go to Japan to see if he could find some consistent command, which he did. He resurreced his career, and he did it with hard work and by grinding innings out.
So on July 18, in his last start against Oakland, Lewis tried once again to work through any pain.
"Through my bullpen sessions, through everything, it felt great leading up to it. Long toss and everything felt perfect. Getting loose in the bullpen I had no issues," Lewis said. "Then in the third inning, it started to progressively get tighter and tighter. I knew I wasn’t going to be able to go deep into ballgames and be the guy that the team needed me to be."
Lewis knew he had to shut it down. And when Lewis says it's hurting, you can bet there's some pretty good pain there -- whether he'll admit it or not.
It's difficult to see any pitcher go through this on a pennant contender. But it's particularly hard to see Lewis have to deal with not being on the mound at the critical points down the stretch and in the playoffs for the Rangers in 2012.
No one the past two seasons has been a better postseason pitcher for Texas than Lewis. He's 4-1 with a 2.34 ERA in eight playoff starts (50 innings). He was the winning pitcher in Game 6 of the 2010 ALCS when the Rangers clinched the first trip to the World Series in franchise history with a victory over the New York Yankees. He also won the club’s only World Series game in 2010. He was the starter in Game 6 of the World Series in St. Louis last year, which the Rangers lost in extra innings after being one strike away from the title twice.
"The tough part is you feel for Colby," general manager Jon Daniels said. "This guy is everything you want. He’s a competitor. He’s been an absolute warrior for us, pitched in the biggest games, pitched a ton of innings, stepped up time after time. He was pitching a lot of times out there with issues and aches that he didn’t even tell us about. On the rare occasion he did, it was never an excuse for him to go out here. He’s been a leader by example and the way he goes about his business with no excuses."
The guy is a gamer of the highest order. And while he doesn't have the overall stuff of Yu Darvish or the flash of other top pitchers in the league, he goes about his business each and every day, doesn't complain, and gets the job done. Cliff Lee certainly earned his keep in the ALDS and ALCS in 2011, but Lewis provided a big punch in the ALCS himself, winning Games 2 and 6. Last year, there was no one the Rangers wanted on the mound in a big-game situation more than Lewis.
As well as Lewis had pitched the last two years, he was in line to command one more big contract this offseason. That won't happen now. And it's a shame, because few worked as hard to earn that opportunity than Lewis.
Count me as one guy that hopes Lewis has a successful rehab and returns to the big leagues for some more productive years. He deserves that much.