Notes: Lewis back in the big leagues
Rogers doesn't buy into second-half slump theory
DETROIT -- This time, Colby Lewis can unpack his bags for a little while.
The last time Lewis was up with the Tigers, he was headed back to Triple-A Toledo before his head could stop spinning. Part of that factor was that he had other items on his mind. Not only was he back in the big leagues for the first time since rotator cuff surgery in 2004, but it was around the same time that he and his wife Jenny learned that she was pregnant with their first child.
However, Lewis knew his stint with the big club would be short. They called him up for an extra arm in the bullpen after the Indians wore down the relief corps at Jacobs Field, then the Tigers rotation went about giving them a rest. Three days after was up, he was back down without having pitched in a game.
"I knew what my role was going to be," Lewis said. "It was good, actually. It was one of those things that they didn't need me because their starters did well. That's what I want to see continue through the rest of the year. If starters go out and give six or seven good innings every time, it's going to be tough for opposing teams."
With Roman Colon on the disabled list, however, Lewis knows he'll be around a little while longer for this stint. And on Wednesday, he finally got the call to pitch. When he took the mound with one out in the sixth inning, it marked his first Major League appearance since April 17, 2004, his last start for the Rangers before going on the disabled list.
It was enough, he said, to give him goosebumps just thinking about it before the game. After spending a year and half doing the lonely work of injury rehab with two different organizations, then spending this season getting his arm back in pitching form, that trot from the bullpen to the mound meant something.
"It's just good to be back out there," he said. "It's one of those deals where you work for two years trying to get back to being healthy. Your whole goal is to be back out there on a big-league mound."
He was a highly touted flamethrower the last time he pitched in the big leagues, boasting a mid- to upper-90s fastball and an aggressive pitching style. But in two different stints with the Rangers in 2002 and 2003, he walked a combined 96 batters over 161 1/3 innings.
He doesn't have that same fastball, but he doesn't boast the same wildness, either. He walked just 36 batters over 147 1/2 innings for the Mud Hens, while racking up 104 strikeouts. It was a lesson he learned while throwing rehab outings in Lakeland last year. Considering he was throwing 85 mph instead of 95 at that point, he had to.
"One of the big things I've learned, instead of trying to blow it out all the time, is just pitch," he said. "Location is a lot better than trying to rear back and get two more miles per hour and miss your spot."
Nonetheless, he can feel the pitching strength in his arm coming back. Ever since the midway point of the season, he's felt it more and more. He hit 92-93 mph consistently on his fastball Wednesday, slightly harder than he had thrown at Toledo due in part to his adrenaline.
"Right around the 100-inning mark, my arm didn't feel painful, but it felt like a dead period," Lewis said. "Once I got through that, it feels like the beginning of the season again. Having almost two years of rehab, I know it's strong enough."
Second-half simmer: So much for the notion that Kenny Rogers runs out of gas down the stretch.
A day after Rogers tossed seven scoreless innings over the White Sox, the 41-year-old was back on the field Wednesday. While the Tigers took batting practice, Rogers took laps around the warning track, jogging along the outfield fence and back around to home plate. While the Tigers kept hitting, he kept jogging, until he accelerated into a near-sprint as they headed back into the dugout. If he's running low on energy, it isn't showing in his legs -- or his arm, for that matter.
As the 41-year-old left-hander struggled through July and early August, his statistical splits came up time and again, with the All-Star break as the turning point. Over the previous three years, he was 29-12 with a 3.87 ERA for the first half, 16-13 with a 4.80 ERA after. The reputation was established that Rogers faded down the stretch.
Manager Jim Leyland didn't buy it, saying Tuesday the heat in Texas that beat down on him while with the Rangers wouldn't be a factor in the more northern climate of Detroit. This year's slump, ironically, might've had more to do with having too much energy than too little.
After beating the Rangers last Thursday, he said he felt like he had more of a variation on his pitches. There was more of a velocity difference between his fastball and his offspeed pitches, not because he was throwing his fastball harder, but because he was taking something off the rest of his repertoire.
On Tuesday, he was effective enough that he had Chicago's lineup looking flat.
Rogers, for one, never bought into the slump talk. "I really don't lend any credence to it," he said after the game. "I just try to do what I normally do. I know I've won games in August and September, so it's not a big deal."
Maybin makes an appearance: The Tigers had a guest in town for Wednesday's game. Cameron Maybin, Detroit's first-round pick in last year's First-Year Player Draft, took advantage of Class A West Michigan's two-day break to come to Comerica Park for the first time since last summer's All-Star Game festivities.
Along with his father, Maybin watched batting practice from the field before taking in the game.
Coming up: The Tigers finish up their eight-game homestand with a 1:05 p.m. ET matinee against the White Sox on Thursday at Comerica Park. Nate Robertson (11-9, 3.71) will start for Detroit opposite Jon Garland (14-4, 4.73). The game will not be televised locally, but will be broadcast on Comcast Sportsnet in Chicago and online at MLB.TV.
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.