The Rangers will be without right-hander Colby Lewis for at least the next two months due to a strained lat muscle that was revealed by an MRI today, tweets Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Wilson adds that Lewis won’t throw for the next four weeks, at which point he’ll undergo another MRI to determine the progress he’s made before being cleared to begin a throwing program. Via MLB.com’s T.R. Sullivan (Twitter link), Rangers GM Jon Daniels didn’t specify an immediate replacement for Lewis, but he called the loss a “kick in the gut.”
The loss of Lewis, 36, is indeed a significant blow to the Rangers. Texas saw Yu Darvish head back to the disabled list last week, and earlier today they placed lefty Derek Holland on the disabled list with shoulder inflammation. That’s sixty percent of the team’s rotation hitting the DL in the span of 10 days, leaving the club with a rotation consisting of Cole Hamels, Martin Perez, Nick Martinez and A.J. Griffin. As can be seen on their newly depth chart (reflecting today’s Lewis/Holland injuries), former first-round pick Chi Chi Gonzalez is already on the 40-man roster and just a phone call away at Triple-A Round Rock, so he could step into the big league rotation in short order.
That said, it certainly seems plausible that the Rangers will explore outside additions for the rotation. The Rangers have yet to announce any form of timeline for the returns of Darvish or Holland as they did with Lewis, so there’s some degree of hope that they can return sooner rather than later. However, replacing Lewis’ production will be no small feat for the Rangers. To this point in the season, he’s enjoyed an outstanding rebound, totaling a team-leading 98 innings and posting a 3.21 ERA with 5.6 K/9, 1.7 BB/9 and a 36 percent ground-ball rate. Metrics like FIP, xFIP and SIERA all call for a fair amount of regression, but Lewis has nonetheless been a rock in manager Jeff Banister’s rotation through the first 10 weeks of the season.
While the Rangers did part with a good deal of talent in the July trade that netted Hamels and dominant setup man Jake Diekman, Texas still has a well-regarded farm system that has plenty of upper-level bats if the team wishes to seek outside assistance for its contingent of starting pitchers. Daniels has never been shy about pursuing help on the summer trade market, and recent deals for Hamels, Matt Garza and Ryan Dempster exemplify that aggressive nature. Texas is 20 games above .500 and holds a 9.5 game lead in the American League West, so there might not be an immediate or urgent need to supplement the starting staff, but adding some established talent that could contribute in a playoff setting sometime between now and the Aug. 1 non-waiver trade deadline seems like a logical play for Daniels and his staff.