Lewis' head and heart are back in the game

The Baltimore Sun

Before pitcher Rommie Lewis could regain the velocity on his fastball, he needed to rediscover his love of the game.

It took a full year for Lewis to realize he missed baseball enough to rededicate himself to it. Once chosen as the Orioles' fifth-best prospect by Baseball America, he got off to a sizzling start at Double-A Bowie this season before beginning to struggle. But at least he was on the mound again, and on the mend.

Lewis, a 6-foot-6 left-handed reliever chosen in the fourth round of the 2001 draft out of Newport (Wash.) High, missed the 2005 season after quitting. Three years earlier, he compiled 25 saves and posted a 2.15 ERA at Single-A Delmarva, striking out 77 in 71 innings, and made the South Atlantic League All-Star team. Now he was walking away.

"I was down in Sarasota for spring training and I was just having a terrible time. Didn't want to be there, didn't want to show up, didn't want to play baseball. I hated it," said Lewis, 24, who is 1-2 with a 3.45 ERA in 21 appearances.

"I let the rules and regulations get to me. I was miserable. I just wasn't having fun, and baseball's all about having fun. If you can't have fun, you're not good to your team, you're not good to your organization, you're no good to yourself. So I had to step away."

Lewis was wearing a chain around his neck during one spring game, and it popped out of his jersey. As he returned to the dugout, pitching coach Larry Jaster told him to tuck it back inside. Lewis' curt response as he walked past included a profanity.

Soon after, Lewis stopped running with the rest of the team after a game, headed to the clubhouse, packed his belongings and left. He called David Stockstill, director of minor league operations, and requested his release. Stockstill placed him on the inactive list rather than allowing him to retire.

Lewis lived in Rockville until August 2005, then moved to Idaho to be closer to his family. It wasn't until November that he contacted Stockstill again and said he wanted to pitch, his desire bubbling to the surface while watching a playoff game on television.

"I saw a bunch of guys doing what I know I can do," he said. "I was like, 'Man, I need to go back.' "

Another phone call was made, to Bowie pitching coach Scott McGregor.

"I said, 'There's only one reason you're calling me,' and he said, 'Yeah, I want to come back,' " McGregor said.

Lewis spent the 2006 season at Single-A Frederick, going 5-3 with a 2.09 ERA and six saves in 51 2/3 innings after joining the team in June from extended spring training. He didn't allow a run in 12 of his last 14 games.

"He throws four pitches for strikes," Bowie manager Bien Figueroa said. "If he can get his velocity all the way back, he can pitch in the big leagues."

Triple-A Norfolk

Slowly but surely, infielder Brandon Fahey is emerging from his season-long slump. Fahey is hitting .211 with four triples, two homers, 19 RBIs and a team-leading nine steals in 60 games. He entered the weekend batting .321 with 15 RBIs with runners in scoring position. ... Though he got a late start because of a hamstring injury, outfielder Jason Dubois is tied for the team lead with six homers and ranks third with 21 RBIs.

Double-A Bowie

Slowed by injuries in the past, outfielder Val Majewski appeared in 60 of Bowie's first 61 games and leads the team with 33 runs scored. Majewski hit his third homer Friday and is hitting .281. ... Another former Orioles outfielder, Jeff Fiorentino, was 7-for-20 in a five-game stretch last week. He leads the Baysox with 25 walks.

Single-A Frederick

Jason Berken was fifth in the Carolina League with 48 strikeouts going into the weekend and lowered his ERA from 9.31 to 4.31 in eight starts before Saturday. ... Brandon Erbe went a season-high eight innings Tuesday, allowing one earned run and striking out 11.

Single-A Delmarva

Shortstop-third baseman Bill Rowell continues to justify the Orioles taking him with their first pick in last year's draft. He is hitting .526 with four doubles, a home run and 12 RBIs in his past six games.


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