Lewis cool, calm amid Opening Day hoopla
Poised righty tabbed to start Rangers' first game of '12
What Michael Young is to the Rangers' lineup, Colby Lewis is to their pitching staff. That's why he will take the baseball and be Texas' starting pitcher on Opening Day."He's a veteran with experience who goes out there and gives you everything he has," manager Ron Washington said. "He doesn't get rattled. Nothing bothers him. He has poise. He's my guy." Lewis will be out there on Friday in front of a sellout crowd at the Ballpark in Arlington, amid all the pomp and circumstance that goes with Opening Day. He will approach it the same way he would an August weekday afternoon game in Oakland with maybe 10,000 people sitting in the stands.
"Being the Opening Day pitcher means I get to go out there for 30-35 starts," Lewis said. "Being the top of the rotation guy doesn't matter. It's all about competing and giving your team a chance to win. I just do what it takes to keep my team in the game. If I do that, I will pitch a lot of innings this year and help my team win a lot of games. I'm really not into titles."That's just what the Rangers' No. 1 starter is all about. This is a former first-round Draft pick by Texas in 1999 whose career was just about wrecked by injuries and found himself on the discard pile five years ago. He has been let go on waivers twice, released twice and missed one complete season while recovering from rotator cuff surgery. He had to go to Japan to find himself and after two dominating seasons there, the Rangers brought him home two years ago. They signed him to a three-year contract that easily ranks as one of the shrewdest deals in club history and put him in their rotation. Two years later, the Rangers have been to two World Series and Lewis is 4-1 with a 2.34 ERA in eight postseason starts. That ranks 10th all-time among pitchers with at least eight starts. "He is just one way, every single game," catcher Mike Napoli said. "He is always the same, whether things go good or bad. I never have to go to the mound to pump him up. He takes every game seriously. When Colby goes out there, you know what you're going to get. He's going to throw strikes and whatever happens, happens. He doesn't let anything bother him."
|Projected Opening Day lineup|
He is not the most gifted pitcher on the staff, but Young is not the most gifted hitter in the Rangers lineup. Lewis' fastball averaged 88.9 mph last year, the slowest of any of the club's five starters, and he allowed 35 home runs, the most in the American League. But when the pressure is on, he has been Texas' best pitcher over the past two years. The Rangers don't get to two World Series without him."For me, I just look at it as just another start," Lewis said. "I just take all the things I've done to prepare for it and just try to do what I'm good at doing. You don't try to go outside yourself, that's when you get into trouble." That has always been Young's approach as a hitter and has served him well. That's one of many reasons why he is so highly respected, and Lewis has earned that on the pitching staff. "With the young guys, the last couple of years I have tried to lead by example," Lewis said. "Stay out of the training room, stay healthy, if you have a bad start, don't worry about it. Just bounce back. Don't let one start drag you down in the next start. You are going to get a lot of starts. You can't let one put a lot of pressure on the next one." When Lewis takes the mound on Friday, he will also be entering the last year of his contract. He can be a free agent after this season. Like everything else, he shrugs off the possibility of what that might mean. "I feel the last four years, I have been very blessed," Lewis said. "I'm very happy where I am at this point in my life. Whatever comes down will be even more of a blessing. It will all work out in the end. You can't get caught up in all of that kind of stuff. It's just another opportunity. When life presents you with opportunities, you've got to take advantage of it." He has done that the past four years, and that is why he is the Rangers' Opening Day pitcher.
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields, and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.