Entering the season, there were several wild card candidates for spots on the Texas Rangers' pitching staff — both in the starting rotation and in the bullpen.
Colby Lewis, who has arguably been the club's most consistent starting pitcher since 2010, was all set to be land a big free agent contract this past offseason before he tore a tendon in his pitching elbow last summer and had to undergo surgery in July. The Rangers gave him a one-year deal with the hope he could come back at some point in 2013 and help the club while also rebuilding some value for himself heading into the winter.
Lewis has been ahead of schedule basically the entire time, which should be no surprise knowing Lewis' mentality as a bulldog. Now, he's set to throw two bullpen sessions this week and could be out on a rehab assignment by next week, Jon Daniels said on Monday prior to the Rangers' win over the Angels.
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Same goes for Martin Perez, who looked like a lock to win the fifth starter job out of spring training before he fractured his forearm when he was hit by a line drive. He could be in some extended spring training games by next week.
The bad news for the Rangers is that reliever Joakim Soria, who was expected to eventually be the Rangers' set-up man as a former All-Star closer coming off Tommy John surgery strained a pectoral muscle and won't be able to throw for two or three weeks. The good news is it's totally unrelated to his elbow, but the injury pushes his estimated return to the bigs back from late May to early July.
The Soria thing is big, but with the way Tanner Scheppers and Joe Ortiz have pitched so far, the Rangers can handle it as long as those two continue to excel. Where Lewis and Perez fit in upon their returns is still up in the air. Perez has to prove he's ready to be a starter in the bigs, despite his great spring prior to the injury. You'd figure Lewis will eventually slide into the rotation for either Nick Tepesch or Justin Grimm, who's taking Matt Harrison's place until he returns some time after the all-star break. Of course, you never know what you'll get from Lewis coming off a serious arm surgery, but you have to like his chances.