The Texas Rangers will get their best post-season pitcher back next year.
Colby Lewis, who has been out since elbow surgery in July, agreed Monday to a $2 million, one-year contract extension for 2013.
Instead of sending Lewis into free agency this winter uncertain about his immediate future and injured -- the right-hander likely won't throw until at least January -- the two-time defending AL champion Rangers gave him an unexpected new contract. They hope he will be able to return and help them again sometime next season.
"There were a lot of questions ... rolling into the off-season and not knowing," Lewis said. "This sure makes things a lot more comfortable in the off-season. It's just a great opportunity. I think they're allowing me to get right, get healthy and do it the right way."
Lewis, who turned 33 last month, was 6-6 with a 3.43 ERA in 16 starts this season before surgery July 27 to repair a torn flexor tendon in his right elbow.
Originally drafted by the Rangers in 1999 with a compensation pick between the first and second rounds, Lewis is 32-29 with a 3.93 ERA in 80 starts since rejoining the team in 2010 after two seasons in Japan. He is 4-1 with a 2.34 ERA in eight post-season starts -- 1-0 with a 2.29 ERA in three World Series games.
Lewis can earn up to $4 million more in incentives when he gets back on the mound.
Assistant general manager Thad Levine said he and general manager Jon Daniels were talking during a game in the past two weeks when the question arose about how Lewis was feeling.
They wondered if Lewis was enjoying the Rangers' latest playoff drive or if the pitcher was wondering if he was in his final games of wearing a Texas jersey and how he would rehab during the winter.
"I think J.D. and I both came to the same conclusion, that was unacceptable," Levine said. "We view Colby as an essential part of this franchise, this family. He's earned it, he deserves it. ... We want him to have peace of mind."
The Rangers generally don't do such deals during the season. But they got the go-ahead from team president Nolan Ryan and quickly put together a new contract for Lewis, even knowing he might not be back in their rotation until the middle of next season.
Lewis was the Rangers' opening day starter this year, even after they added Japanese star Yu Darvish to their rotation.
It has been nearly eight weeks since surgery for Lewis, who said he will soon start doing some exercises and stretching. He could start throwing again in January.
"I always tease about telling the doctor to give me a shot and get back out there for October," Lewis said. "It's hard not to be out there."
Daniels said the Rangers don't know exactly when Lewis will be able to make his first start next season.
"Somewhat the goal behind this deal is take away some of the pressure on Colby to rush back and put himself at risk," Daniels said. "But whatever that day is at some point during next season, we feel pretty good about the person, the pitcher and what we're going to get out of him, and help us hopefully in another contending year."