Allow me to begin here: I will never besmirch the name of Colby Preston Lewis, Purveyor of Grit, Father of Men, First of his Name. I remember 2010, and I remember 2011, and I remember Oakland, and I remember how his entire career has been one long practice in proving articles like this one ...wrong.
But Andrew Cashner’s lingering bicep injury and second shut-down of Spring Training has not shone forth a Budweiser-shaped light into the overcast skies above Gotham.
Sure, if Cashner isn’t ready for April third, that means your Opening Day rotation is a mere 60% of the rotation you hope to take into the pennant chase in September. Tyson Ross won’t be back until mid-May at the earliest, and Cashner’s bicep injury is probably going to keep him out until [flipping through a folder full of various unbound papers, most of which are falling onto the floor, throwing up hands in exasperation and shrugging, as if to say “clearly I don’t have your answer here; what do you want from me?”]
But—and I want to reiterate that I fully believe it possible that Colby Lewis could come back and prove me wrong, like he has everyone else forever—I think it’s important to remember that we’re not comparing Chi Chi Gonzalez and Nick Martinez and A.J. Griffin and Mike Hauschild and Dillon Gee to 2010 Colby Lewis. If we were, this article would have been one sentence long: "The Rangers signed Colby Lewis months ago; what are you talking about?".
Instead, we are comparing those guys to a 37-year-old pitcher who put up these numbers in 18⅓ innings after his return from a shoulder injury last season:
12 strikeouts, 9 walks, 6 home runs allowed.
That’s not even counting Game 3 in Toronto. Five runs (all earned) in 2 innings. That’s not how Colby wanted to end his Rangers career. That’s not how any of us wanted it to end. We wanted to see him throw a slider for a called strike three on his 110th pitch of the game to clinch the World Series, then do donuts across both infield and outfield in a sprint car until Busch Stadium was full of smoke and revenge. There’s nothing wrong in admitting that’s what we wanted for the franchise leader in postseason wins.
But if Rangers fans want to experience more postseason moments, they’re going to have to acknowledge that Lewis—especially if you make the call on March 10th—isn't likely to give the team any better chance of a fast April start to the season than would the recently-resurgent Chi Chi Gonzalez, who seems to have rediscovered either the combination of his off-speed and breaking pitches, or maybe just the confidence required to throw them with conviction.
Meanwhile, Mike Hauschild’s repertoire (strike-thrower, low 90s, slilder) is similar to Lewis’, and he’s had a decent Spring thus far. (bonus: he’s also a Rule Five pick from the Astros, so his success would be one more shake of salt in the Silver-Boot-shaped wound.) Nick Martinez has looked sharp, maybe even a step above the others at times. A.J. Griffin is probably the closest comparison we have to Lewis: he had a very successful first half, then struggled after spending time on the disabled list. His high flyball repertoire and reliance on a strong breaking pitch (it’s the curve for Griffin, the slider for Lewis) don’t play well in the Arizona Spring conditions. Then of course, there’s the rest of the field: Dillon Gee is a reclamation project for the second year in a row. Eddie Gamboa throws knuckleballs and picks people off. Tyler Wagner has even looked impressive in spots, though I’m certainly not yet advocating for him as a rotation member just yet.
It’s possible the Rangers could bring Lewis back on a minor league deal, a la Josh Hamilton, and give him a chance to overtake the field and win a job until Cashner and Ross return. But it’s not as if the Rangers don’t already have a strong field of candidates, at least four of whom could make a strong claim that they would be better than the 2017 version of Colby Lewis for however long they stick around.
Of course, now that I've said it out loud, Colby Lewis is going to come back and prove me wrong. I'd be okay with that.