Lewis pedals his way to fitness

Righty reports to camp in great shape after extreme bike regimen

Lewis pedals his way to fitness

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Colby Lewis said the first day on his road bicycle was tough. But when you spend $10,000 to get started, you don't quit after just one ride.

"I told my wife, 'I don't know if I'm going to be able to do that,'" the Rangers right-hander said Friday at Spring Training camp. "I was breathing through my mouth and my throat was burning and my body didn't want to cool down. A couple of days later, though, I got back on the bike and I didn't stop."

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Lewis became a cycling maniac in his hometown of Bakersfield in California's San Joaquin Valley. He worked up to 200 miles a week riding his S-Works Tarmac through Hart Park and along Round Mountain Road in the countryside.

Colby Lewis (left) and a Bakersfield buddy hitting the road recently. The Rangers righty rode as much as 200 miles a week before Spring Training. (Courtesy of Colby Lewis)

Bakersfield is at the southern end of the valley, where the Sierra Nevadas to the east converge with the Tremblor Range and the San Andreas Fault to the west. It is part of one of the most fertile agricultural regions in the world, and when El Nino roars through in the winter -- leaving snow on the mountains and rinsing away the smog -- it can lead to ideal conditions for a three- to four-hour bike ride.

"It's relaxing for me," Lewis said. "The other day I went on a 60-mile ride, there were grapes on one side of me, the oranges were in bloom, it was awesome. It smelled great. I was relaxing and enjoying myself."

Lewis was not taking a joy ride, and cycling is not a whimsical hobby along with his passion for rebuilt automobiles and NASCAR. The bike has become an important part of his conditioning and rehabilitation after undergoing surgery on his right knee in October.

Dr. Keith Meister, who did the operation, told Lewis that his knee couldn't take much more pounding from running. Meister's suggestion was a road bike, and Lewis also had a buddy in Bakersfield suggesting that he get one. Lewis, who is 36 and the oldest pitcher in camp, finally hopped on board.

"Every year you get older you are trying to find new ways to put yourself in condition," Lewis said. "I'm going to keep on doing it after I retire. It's a sport I really enjoy."

Lewis injured the knee in May and pitched in considerable discomfort for most of the 2015 season. He still made 33 starts and led the Rangers with 204 innings pitched. But he wasn't able to do his normal conditioning program, and his weight went up to 265 pounds. Cycling reversed it, and Lewis reported to camp at 239 pounds, which is where he was at in his first couple of years with the Rangers in 2010-11.

"He looks good," manager Jeff Banister said. "He has a great look on his face. His smile and energy, the way he is walking around, he looks great."

Most important, Lewis said the knee feels great and he was able to throw his bullpen session on Friday during the Rangers' first official workout for pitchers and catchers.

"My knee has felt unbelievable since I started riding," Lewis said. "It's all about getting in shape and getting ready to go, but I still have to do baseball stuff. Riding a bike is not going to make me a better pitcher. I still have to do my normal baseball stuff."

T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields, follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.