Colby Lewis is a warrior.
Not a Golden State Warrior, or a samurai warrior. And as far as I know he hasn’t actually been to war. Maybe he’s seen the movie “Warrior,” but I can neither confirm nor deny that theory.
On the pitcher’s mound, he’s just a warrior.
The tale of his return is an amazing one. After 21 months away from the game, rehabbing from hip surgery, Lewis made his triumphant return. And he looks to be his old self, Mr. Reliable.
He’s the players’ player, a non-flashy, down-to-business pitcher. He’s the best pitcher the Rangers have, whenever they need him to be. He put up another effective Lewis-esque outing in Anaheim Friday, acting as the anchor when the Ranger pitching staff was drifting off in the Oakland series.
That’s what veterans do. They keep the team afloat when it needs them most.
Kevin Kouzmanoff deserves a lot of the same credit in 2014. He doesn’t have the Rangers tenure that Lewis has, and his stint with the Big League club was brief - only 13 games - before being sidelined by a herniated disc in his back.
But what he did while he was in the Rangers’ lineup was remarkable. Kouzmanoff recorded 17 hits in those 13 games, and the club went 9-4 as he filled in for ailing star third baseman Adrian Beltre.
Kouzmanoff’s story is well-chronicled, as his return to the major leagues by way of Beltre’s injury came after two full seasons in the minors.
So while he didn’t suffer a career-threatening injury, Kouzmanoff’s hiatus from MLB action is almost just as impressive.
Two full seasons of being deemed not good enough to compete at the highest level - especially after logging six years in the Bigs, including a season in which he recorded a .260 batting average, 23 HR and 84 RBI - could very well have been damaging to his psyche.
Just like Lewis could have quit when his hip put him out of commission for so long, Kouzmanoff could’ve quit when the game put him out.
Yet, here we are in 2014, and the Texas Rangers “will miss Kevin Kouzmanoff” in their lineup as he rehabs for 2-3 months.
That’s because he showed, in those 13 games, that he is a man of character. He showed that he’s a seasoned veteran who plays for the love of the game, and worked to come back because he knew he could help his team (whichever team that was) win ballgames at the highest level.
It wasn’t a financial move to persevere through those years in the minors. Kouzmanoff, even without an All-Star season, is a millionaire. His Big League contracts totaled $9 million through 2011, according to Baseball Reference.
Kouzmanoff battled back in very Lewis-esque fashion. He returned to Major League Baseball and kept his team afloat. So whether the 32-year-old plays another game with Texas, his mission should be considered accomplished.
Just as Texas missed a clutch contributor on Lewis for 21 months, they’ll miss their 2014 clutch contributor in Kouzmanoff for two or three.