It's March 22nd, and everything is beginning to fall into its proper place. The Rangers have, to this point in time at least, managed to avert the dreaded spring training injury bug that can inject such distress into a team's early-season schedule. The quantity of meaningless fodder ripe for time-killing debate has markedly increased, with C.J. Wilson and Mike Napoli creating their own little distraction on one end and a deluge of season previews -- such as that of Sports Illustrated, who apparently picked the Angels to win the division title over the wild-card Rangers, and then also picked the Angels to beat the Rangers in a head-to-head playoff series -- flowing forth on the other end.
And, of course, there's the Derek Holland contract extension, which served the purpose of locking in a good, comparatively young lefty with some remaining growth potential at a very reasonable price, and silenced any murmurs of discontent that might have started to bounce around after the Rangers failed to achieve club control-extending deals with Josh Hamilton, Ian Kinsler, Mike Napoli, or Elvis Andrus. Texas now has four-fifths of its Opening Day starting rotation locked in through at least the 2014 season, which sounds like -- and is -- a damn good thing when you can look up and down the list of names and honestly tell yourself that every one of those names could be good to elite on a recurring basis.
But then there's Colby Lewis, the nominal No. 1 starter whose expected 2012 performance feels much harder to pin down than what is typically the norm with somebody of his vintage. To make a long story short, he was great two years ago, not so great last year, but then rose to the occasion in the post-season with quality efforts in both the ALDS and World Series, and wound up as the subject of some contract extension rumors of his own at one point during the winter. The fact that those faded, though, is both readily understandable and possibly advantageous to the Rangers, because about a month ago, Evan Grant confirmed something that we had long suspected:
[Ron] Washington, however, acknowledged significant improvement [in terms of pitcher fielding] from Colby Lewis, the team's most significant offender the last two years, may not be possible. Lewis, who battles a degenerative hip condition, has made nine errors over the last two seasons. It is tied with A.J. Burnett for the highest in the majors.
Washington said Lewis' condition keeps him from being able to field the ball, turn and fire to first in optimal fashion. The hip also prevents Lewis from getting off the mound very quickly, which can then force him to hurry his throw.
We didn't get wind of Lewis's hip problem -- which apparently bothered him for the entirety of the 2011 season -- until last September, and while it adequately explained the steep drop-off between his 2010 and 2011 performance, it was a disconcerting revelation all the same. Now, we've learning that whatever is wrong with his hip is expected to get progressively worse, and given the nature of most hip injuries, surgery would probably require either too much rehab or entail too much risk for Lewis's tastes. I don't know whether that means he'll make it through the 2012 season in one piece or not, or if he'll recapture some of the 2010 effectiveness, or if he'll remain on a downward slope, but you have to figure that the concern over his hip played a key role in the dissolution of those extension talks.
It also strikes me -- and Adam wrote about this as well, in relation to the need to manage Neftali Feliz's innings -- that Scott Feldman could well have the opportunity to live up to his $6.5 million pay grade in 2012, as he seems to have emerged as the team's top spot-starting option ahead of Alexi Ogando, and should be in line to capture most, if not all, of the starts where the coaching staff decides to rest Feliz. If you tack on the enhanced risk that Lewis will need some time off to recuperate from his troubling hip ailment, and then add in the inherent risk of injury that you'll see even with guys as healthy as Yu Darvish and Derek Holland and Matt Harrison ... well, you can see the potential for some resurgence in Feldman's value, and can even envision him as a key member of the 2012 pitching staff.
As for Lewis, though, the only thing I can come up with is "I don't know man, I don't know man, I don't know man, I don't know, I don't know."