Last year pitcher Rommie Lewis made a seamless transition from starter to closer with the Delmarva Shorebirds. This season with the Frederick Keys, he has been asked to step back into a starting rotation.
It would seem to be a difficult conversion for both body and mind -- akin to a marathon runner training to compete in sprint events, then going back to marathons.
But Lewis, who made the South Atlantic League all-star team last year and was named the top reliever in the league by Baseball America after recording 25 saves, has shown no ill effects of the switch. In two starts for the Keys this season the 20-year-old left-hander has pitched 11 innings and allowed just five hits and two runs, only one of which was earned.
"I haven't really had any problems with it," Lewis said of his transition. "I like both roles. Closing because you're pitching off adrenaline -- the whole time you're just going 100 miles per hour everywhere. Starting is fun because you get to pitch longer, and starters get more recognition."
After what has happened in his first two starts, however, Lewis likely wishes he could perform both roles. Monday, for the second time this season, Lewis left a game with the Keys ahead, 6-1. And for the second time, Lewis's relief squandered the lead.
"I feel bad for him," said Keys Manager Tom Lawless. "He's had probably the two best performances I've seen this year by any of the pitchers."
Lewis may have no decisions on his record, but his performance has been decidedly positive. The Orioles' fourth-round selection in the 2001 first-year player draft and their fifth-best prospect according to Baseball America boasts a 0.82 ERA and has seven strikeouts. And he has the confidence of his manager.
"In two years I think you'll see him pitch in the big leagues, because he's just got that mentality," Lawless said. "It doesn't matter what role he's in."