Colby Lewis is the Texas Rangers franchise leader in postseason victories. That statement only begins to scratch the surface of his history with the team, much of which is outlined in this game story from exactly one year ago today, when he nearly threw a perfect game in Oakland.
Colby Lewis is also a free agent, though as he stands in the interview room beneath Globe Life Park, he looks fitter and more refreshed than when we last saw him, in a locker room beneath the Rogers Centre in Toronto (though he insists that recent trips to Breckenridge and Hawaii have gifted him with an additional eight pounds or so).
Lewis is in town for the Do it For Durrett fundraiser being held at the ballpark. It’s the fourth annual fundraiser, organized by members of the local media to raise money for families in need, the first of which was the family of Durrett himself: Richard Durrett, the ESPN Dallas beat writer who died unexpectedly of a brain aneurysm in 2014. Lewis is here as a special guest, but assures us that there are no contract negotiations happening. At least not yet, though he has maintained a rigorous workout routine, riding his bike and working out at two different gyms.
“They never did,” Lewis says in his usual no-nonsense manner. The question is about whether the Rangers made him any offer to come compete for a spot in the rotation. Anything but the initial offer of a minor-league deal. “Never did. There was never that opportunity. It was just the middle of the off-season, a minor league offer, and there was never another phone call after that.”
“I always wanted to stay here. (Then) there was the freak lat injury. I felt great up until then, but then zero people offered me a guaranteed deal. It was a weird market, a weird off-season market, especially for older guys. I just thought there would have been more on the plate, especially here, for me to come back, and… there just wasn’t.”
“I felt like it should have been like ‘here it is, here’s the minimum’ for all I care. I’ve always been the guy that just says ‘put the jersey on my back, and I’ll go pitch.’ But the offer just wasn’t there (...) it’s the only time in my life I’d been prideful, but (...) I didn’t want to have to go prove myself in the organization I’d been with forever.”
“I didn’t want to fight for a position, and when they brought Tyson (Ross) in, and Cashner and all these guys, and here I am, I’m like… ‘I’ve been here forever, and I’m going to be 38 this season and you’re going to make me fight for a spot?’ So it was a tough pill for me to swallow. It still is. It’s one of those situations where I just ...I always wanted to wear this uniform. It’s always where I wanted to be. It’s why I signed back here after Japan. I definitely had other offers, but this is where I wanted to be (...) I didn’t want to put another uniform on, really.”
The conversation turns, inevitably, to what it would take to get him back into the big leagues: “I don’t think it would take much. Especially to put *this* uniform back on.” he motions with his head towards the room, where the Rangers’ top three draft picks have just finished the ceremonial putting-on of Rangers jerseys with their names on the back and the number 17, for the year they were drafted.
What about to be ready physically? Lewis smiles. “Five weeks.”
No one laughs, though the entire collection of reporters smile. Lewis is half-smiling, but he maintains eye contact. He is serious. Then he thinks again about how the answer could be taken and his eyebrows raise. “Not to be-- I’ve never been cocky in that aspect, but for me to be able to be competitive, I would say ...six weeks.”
Lewis is honest, but he isn’t bitter. “There’s no animosity,” he insists. “Not one bit.” He has been forthcoming and truthful with us up to this point, and there is no reason to believe that has changed in the last ten seconds. He believes that he could pitch in 2018, even after a season off, but understands that after a season off, the need to prove himself on a minor league deal would make more sense than it did this season.
For now, he says he watches the team “every other day or so”, keeping up with the guys he helped mentor into the big leagues. He mentions Nick Martinez, specifically. Martinez now inhabits Lewis’ old locker, and that suddenly doesn’t seem like a coincidence. “I don’t sit around and watch and wish,” he shrugs. “I just let it play out, watch it every couple days, and check in on guys, text ‘em.” The rest of the time, he is coaching his ten-year-old’s little league team, with mixed results. “I don’t know if I’m cut out to throw to ten-year-olds,” he laughs.
“I’m overly competitive”