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Colby Lewis looks to build in 2015

The Rangers are banking on Colby Lewis to build on the success he had in the second half of 2014. AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill

ARLINGTON, Texas -- The biggest reason the Rangers signed Colby Lewis to that one-year $4 million contract Thursday afternoon was potential.

Do 35-year-old men have potential?

Of course.

The Rangers are banking on Lewis to build on the success he established in the second half of the 2014 season in 2015.

“I feel like I’m going to be one of those guys like I was in the past three or four years,” Lewis said. “Where I was able to go out there and eat up 200 innings and be able to contribute."

It was a well-deserved contract for Lewis who fought through so much just to get here.

There was this invite to the big club last season worth $2 million that Lewis took and earned a spot on the roster. He pitched poorly in the first half of the season (6.54 ERA, opponents hitting .358 in May) as he tried to get his body back together. Lewis had minor elbow surgery and he was just seven months removed from hip replacement surgery.

He missed all of 2013 trying to heal.

If you don’t believe it, Lewis will show you the pictures on his cellphone: The long scar, the silver joint and the jokes about going through airport security.

In the second half of the season, Lewis was much better. He went 4-8 with a 3.86 ERA in 86.1 innings. He beat up the New York Yankees with seven strong innings July 30 and threw a shutout at the Chicago White Sox on Aug. 5.

He pitched into the seventh inning in four of his final five starts in 2014.

“I just feel like it’s back to normal and there’s no pain, not thinking about it,” Lewis said of his hip. “I’ve worked out the stride issues. (Pitching coach Mike) Maddux and I worked a lot, especially in the first half trying to iron things out.”

It's an encouraging sign Lewis that will become a solid back-of-the-rotation starter for the Rangers. In his prime, Lewis was an innings eater when he pitched more than 200 innings in both in 2010 and 2011. He won 26 games during that time and it was the stretch where the Rangers made consecutive World Series appearances.

Lewis is now hoping he can return to that level where he goes at least 180 innings and can produce at least 10-12 wins.

If you want to question the Lewis signing, that’s fair, because let’s be honest, there are better starters on the free-agent market. But they come with a price. The Rangers would have to trade one of their prospects.

Do you want to go after a high-end free agent? GM Jon Daniels said the club isn’t going to do it.

So when you see what the Rangers are paying their No. 3 or No. 4 starter, depending on where you place Lewis, this move is solid.

“Just glad to have Colby back,” Daniels said. “Really for the last five years, he’s everything we’re about. In the second half, you saw him with a healthy hip. (It’s) easy to forget he was seven months off from major hip surgery when he took the ball for us in April. That’s just kind of his make up.”