MLB

PROSPECT OPEN MIC: Colby Lewis

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The first pick of the Texas in the 1999 draft (38th overall), rocketed through the system, as much due to his pitching in the minors as the desperation for arms. Lewis would make it all the way to the majors in 2002, splitting time that season between the and the Triple-A Oakland Redhawks.

While not incredibly effective at the major league level, Lewis left enough of a positive impression with the club that he would start 2003 with the major league club. While he would show flashes of potential, Lewis would struggle for much of the first half of the season, and was demoted to Triple-A on June 13. The demotion was a positive move for Lewis, as he was able to work on his mechanics and control, and went 5-1, with a 3.05 ERA, and he was just recalled last week.

Still just 24 years old, Lewis has a ton of potential, and is the closest, and best, hope for their long-suffering pitching staff.

You spent time last year with the big league club, and started this season with the as well. You struggled, and recently got sent back down to the minors. Do you feel you might have been called up quickly the first time? Were you rushed?

No, I don¿t think so. It was a good opportunity for me, I know that. It gave me some exposure, and got the big league experience out of the way. I feel like I have the stuff, and I know I can pitch up there; it¿s just a matter of getting it all together and getting it consistent. Last year, I just felt like it was a real good opportunity for me to get two months of big league time in.

When you were sent down, was there anything specific either Buck Showalter or any of the other guys with the club told you they wanted you to work on in Triple-A?

Basically, being more consistent with my off-speed stuff; my fastball¿s been there, that¿s my key pitch, but being more consistent with my change-up and my curveball, getting them over for strikes. Work on that, get those squared away, and be ready to go when the call comes again.

We often hear about how difficult it is to pitch at The Ballpark in Arlington, not just that it is a hitter¿s park, but the unbearable conditions of a Texas summer, with the heat and humidity pounding you down. Having been on the mound there, how would you describe it?

It flies pretty good, as you can see from the home runs that have been hit there. Basically, with that wind gust that comes in over the top and hits off the back of the seating, shooting out to right and right center. Any ballpark, really, nowadays; they build the ballparks around the hitters now, I think. You just have to keep the ball down; you keep the ball at the knees, and it makes it more difficult for them to hit.

You mention the ballparks being built to favor the hitters ¿ is that a mistake, in your opinion?

I¿ve talked to a lot of pitchers; it¿s just one of those things. The fans love to see the home run, and the parks are being built around smaller dimensions. I think that¿s what the fans are coming for now ¿ home runs and big scoring games.

You were taken with the 38th pick overall in the draft by the . Is there any extra pressure that comes with going that high?

I think with being the first pick in ¿99, and 38th overall, I knew I was going to get opportunities. Being young, if I just took care of each level, doing well, putting up good numbers, I knew I would get the opportunity to pitch in the big leagues.

I don¿t think there was any added pressure; I think I just needed to go out and perform each year, proving I was worthy of that pick.

The parent club¿s pitching has suffered the last few years, and one of the biggest causes has been injuries to their pitchers, especially the younger pitchers. Has the lack of healthy arms in the system created any pressure, rushing you higher through the system because of their desperate need for arms?

For me, all I can worry about is making sure I don¿t join them in the injured category. I just want to stay healthy so I can go up and contribute and be a part of the team every five days. I just need to stay on my own regiment and be ready to perform.

Last year you had the opportunity to pitch to Pudge Rodriguez, who is considered one of the better defensive catchers in the game. This year, your catcher in Texas was . What are the differences in terms of style between the two?

I think they are really similar. Einar is a lot like Pudge; he blocks just about everything behind the plate, he has great hands, he picks a lot of stuff out of the dirt, and he¿s still able to throw out a lot of runners too.

Are there any similarities, or differences, in their game-calling abilities?

I think both of them call a pretty good game. It¿s kind of a two-way page; both you and your catcher have to come into the game with pretty much the same type of style and way you want to attack hitters. I went over that last year with Pudge, and with Einar this year. They both communicate with me real well when they come out to talk to me on the mound, and I like both of them.

At this point, you have been very successful since being sent back down to Oklahoma. How much longer do you see yourself being down there? (Note: this interview occurred four days before Lewis was recalled by the )

I¿d like to see myself getting maybe eight to ten more starts at the end of the year, but if that is not what they want... right now, what they want me to do is get my confidence back and keep throwing the ball well, so when I do get called up, it¿s not one of those situations where there¿s pressure for me to go out there and perform, and get sent back down. I think they just want to keep my confidence up; I¿m 5-1 right now, and they want to keep that going for me, so that when I get back there, it¿s for good.

Has that been difficult for you ¿ the constant up and down between the minors and the majors?

Well, last year, it was kind of a different situation, as I was coming out of the bullpen, and that was a different role for me, and I think that the organization really didn¿t want that role for me. They wanted to give me some big-league time, but there were no rotation spots available. I started the season in the bullpen, got sent down, got called back up for the ¿pen, but then got four starts at the end of the season.

It was there way of getting me some exposure to the majors, and get me ready for this year.

Was it difficult coming out of the pen, as you had always been a starter up to that point?

It wasn¿t bad; I kind of got more pumped up actually, I¿d get a little more of an adrenaline rush coming in to different situations. It wasn¿t bad; it was different, pretty much throwing every day, if not every other day, getting loose. It took a little toll on my arm; my arm felt a little bit tired toward the end of the year because it wasn¿t used to throwing as much as it did, the getting up and down and stuff like that.

Maybe I¿ll do a Smoltz thing, start for a long time, and go to the bullpen for the end of my career.

If you had to compare yourself to any one pitcher in the majors, which pitcher most fits the type of pitcher you are?

I think I fit the mold of a big-bodied guy like a Schilling, probably because he throws mid-90s, and now he has a slurve, a change-up, and a curveball, and that¿s how I think of myself, more of a power guy.

Tagged: Rangers, Colby Lewis

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