Rangers optimistic Lewis could return in May

Righty throws off lower slope of mound, continues to make significant progress

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Colby Lewis threw off a "half mound" on Monday morning. He didn't think it was a big deal, but the Rangers did.

"I'm moving up six inches maybe," Lewis said. "I'm going throw it a little bit and see how it feels tomorrow. It's not like I'm going to get up on the mound and rev it up."

Instead he threw 20 pitches off the lower slope of a regular mound without a problem, and it's another step in the process. Lewis, who was the Rangers' Opening Day starter in 2012, had surgery to repair a torn flexor tendon in his right arm on July 27, and the target date for his return is June 1.

But Lewis continues to make significant progress and Texas is growing optimistic he could return sometime in May. The Rangers are hoping that Lewis can start throwing off a full mound by this weekend.

Lewis is the X-factor in the Rangers' deliberations regarding their fifth starter. If it appears that he will indeed be back in May, it could influence the club's decision.

The Rangers have seven candidates for the fifth spot, including four rookies -- Martin Perez, Justin Grimm, Nick Tepesch and Cody Buckel -- who could need more time in the Minor Leagues. They have veterans Randy Wells and Kyle McClellan. Wells has impressed early in camp, while McClellan is sidelined with soreness in the back of the right shoulder.

Then there is Robbie Ross, who was Texas' best setup reliever last season and is being given a real shot to make the rotation. But if Lewis looks like he'll be back in May, the Rangers may decide to leave him in the bullpen.

Instead the Rangers might decide to go with Wells until Lewis is ready to return within the first two months of the season.

McClellan, who had shoulder surgery in July, was throwing the ball well early in camp, but came down with muscle soreness behind the shoulder last week. He tried to throw on Sunday, but had to be shut down because of the soreness. He may try again Wednesday, and there is still time for him to get back in the competition.