SURPRISE, Ariz. – Not long after his perfect postseason for the Texas Rangers, Colby Lewis and his wife were talking about where baseball has taken them.
The most recent travels were from Japan back to Texas and the team that drafted him more than a decade earlier. He missed a season recovering from rotator-cuff surgery, then played games for Toledo, Detroit, Sacramento and Oakland before pitching two seasons in the Far East.
"After the World Series was over, she was like it's crazy how we've gone from so many directions and you got to come back to the States and go to the World Series," Lewis said. "It's been a journey."
After once expecting to finish his career in Japan, Lewis is at home again in the Rangers rotation.
With Cliff Lee back in Philadelphia after only a half-season for Texas, manager Ron Washington has so far guaranteed only two spots in the rotation for the AL champions — Lewis and scheduled opening day starter C.J. Wilson.
Lee and Lewis both won three postseason games for the Rangers last fall, though Lee also lost both of his World Series starts against San Francisco.
Lewis was 3-0 with a 1.71 ERA in four postseason starts, throwing five scoreless innings in his no-decision. The right-hander won the pennant-clinching game against the New York Yankees and was the winner in the Rangers' lone World Series victory.
"Personally, I was just happy with the success to come back from Japan and just kind of have everything translate," Lewis said. "I was just happy that it did and I stayed healthy all year long and made all my starts."
As a younger pitcher with the Rangers, Lewis admits he was a hard thrower with no "real command" of the strike zone. During his comeback from surgery and his time in Japan, Lewis worked on that while developing his breaking and off-speed pitches to give him a better repertoire.
Lewis was 26-17 in 55 games in Japan with a 2.82 ERA, 369 strikeouts and only 46 walks in 354 1-3 innings. In 72 major league games before that — with the Rangers, Tigers and A's — Lewis walked 124 batters in 217 1-3 innings.
The Rangers originally drafted Lewis 38th overall with a supplemental first-round pick in 1999, only months before their last playoff appearance until last season. They got him back before last season with a two-year contract that includes a team option for 2012.
In his first month back with the Rangers, Lewis was 3-0 with a 2.76 ERA in five April starts. That included nine scoreless innings in a game that Texas won in 11 innings after he was done.
"Just coming back and having a good April, I got off to a good start and I kind of just kept that confidence level," Lewis said. "And kept it rolling throughout the year."
Lewis pitched a career-high 201 innings with 196 strikeouts and 65 walks during the regular season. He had some tough luck going 12-13 with a 3.72 ERA, with 11 of his quality starts ending with either a loss (six) or a no-decision (five).
"Really with Colby, it wasn't just one year," general manager Jon Daniels said. "He's done it three years in a row counting what he did in Japan."
Lewis won 10 games a Rangers rookie in 2003, then opened the following season in their starting rotation before tearing the rotator cuff in his right shoulder. He was exposed to waivers after that season and claimed by Detroit, missing a full year recovering from surgery before appearing in only two games for the Tigers in 2006.
He signed as a free agent with Washington, was released by the Nationals in spring training and went to the Athletics, who released him after the 2007 season. Lewis was claimed off waivers by Kansas City before signing with Hiroshima in Japan.
Washington chose Wilson to start the April 1 opener at home against Boston because the crafty left-hander won 15 games last season after moving into the rotation from the bullpen. Lewis agrees Wilson is deserving and believes it will benefit the Rangers having two solid starters — one lefty and the other a right-hander — at the top of the rotation.
"I just kind of want to do the same things that I was doing last year," Lewis said. "Go out and make every start, stay healthy, do what I need to do to keep my body in shape for a long season. ... If I'm healthy, then everything kind of plays out."